The Ops Perspective on Fashion with Needle & Thread’s Mark Liddington (episode 408)

Mark Liddington is the Chief Operating Officer at Needle & Thread, a fashion retailer selling via their own ShopifyPlus website from the UK to the world. They also sell through outlets such as Selfridges, Harrods, Zalando and others. Needle and Thread launched in 2013, eCommerce sales doubled during the pandemic, and they are on track for over £20 million in sales through all channels this year.

Mark Liddington Needle & Thread on eCommerce MasterPlan Podcast

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Surviving and Learning from the Pandemic

The first key thing the pandemic brought about for Mark was challenging the assumptions you have about your business. So much has changed – the market, the customers – and will continue to change that you really have to revisit what you’re doing in the business and adapt.

The second lesson, Mark says, is understanding better how to scale a brand. This is in terms of going from a small group of customers to a larger market, and for him, this is largely due to the importance of the brand and all else connected to it.

An Operations Perspective

At Needle & Thread, commitment to quality is important, and this is evident even in the operations side of the business. 

Their products are delicate and need to be handled with care, so during the pandemic, they outsourced their pick and pack. Mark says this is going to stay outsourced so they can focus on their product, their analytics, and customer service.

For Mark, finding the right third-party logistics provider they can trust with their delicate products was important. They were able to do it and he says the advantages are huge, but you will still need internal resources to manage your 3PL provider.

Responsibly Sourced Collection

The brand launched their first collaboration for a responsible-sourced collection when the pandemic hit. While their plans had to be pushed back because of the situation, they had already done the legwork and the audit process. This made it easy for Needle & Thread to move the collection to the forefront this year.

Their aim is to be 90% responsibly-sourced by 2024, and they’re already doing what they can now to get their messaging right.

Team Retention Strategy

Mark says their increased focus on becoming responsibly-sourced has also had a positive effect on their team. You need to give your people reasons to stay with you, and this initiative is part of it.

Other aspects of how they’re managing team retention is by cultivating a culture that adapts to the times while strengthening foundations. This can be seen through their move to go fully remote while also doing what they can to build connectivity and relationships among the team members.

eCommerce Book Top Tip

  • Any content by Rory Sutherland on YouTube, social media, and podcasts, as well as his books

eCommerce Traffic Top Tip

  • Take advantage of the free stuff first and get them right, especially when you don’t have the cash to spend. Some of the things you can work on are database-building, SEO, CRM structure, and even content. And identify where your audience is so you can plan on getting ads on the platform they frequent.

Tool Top Tip

Growth Top Tip

  • Be consistent when it comes to your branding and messaging, and know what your goal is. Also, when you’re thinking about growth, make sure you have a plan on how to handle and service that growth when it happens.

Interview Links

Related episodes

  • 262: Fashion replatforming, customer service and the impact of PR with Needle & Thread’s Mark Liddington
  • 350: Operations is ALL about enabling growth with Lovepop’s Dan Nephew
  • 385: Building a sustainable loungewear brand with PR and Community – it’s Krisha Kotak from Tula+Tye

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