Mark Liddington is the Chief Operating Officer at Needle & Thread, a fashion retailer selling via their own website and through outlets such as Selfridges and net a porter. Needle and Thread launched in 2013 and now do over £15m per year in sales.
About the Business
- Headquartered in the UK
- Sells Internationally
- ⅔ Wholesale and ⅓ eCommerce
- Uses Shopify Plus
How Mark Got into eCommerce
Mark did 20 years in finance, working for big banks across the UK and Europe before migrating to eCommerce. When he moved into his role at Needle & Thread, he says that some foundations laid down in his early career were very useful.
His move was precipitated by a relationship—he knew the management team at Needle & Thread and said that when a permanent opportunity came up after 8 months of consultancy, he was happy to take it. Part of Mark’s role is guiding the company through the many operational iterations typical for a small business. But much of his focus has been on helping grow the eCommerce side of the operation.
Mark entered Needle & Thread during a time when Magento was being held together by a lot of bug fixes and one of his first moves was to get the company to replatform.
Even though that process is incredibly difficult, Mark says that it’s a great way to learn in and out and refresh the company at the same time. Eventually the team settled on Shopify Plus. They came to the decision largely by reference and asked a lot of friends in parallel industries to help unpack the nuances of the different platform options.
The flexibility of Shopify Plus was ultimately what sold it to the team and they partnered with web design agency Swanky to create a site that could expand with the rapidly evolving needs of the business. Mark was pleased that they weren’t painted into any one corner at the outset because of the variety of available options and says that being able to pick the design agency that spoke best to their brand was empowering to the team.
He believes that it’s crucially important to ensure online messaging is consistent with the brand and even if something might have good metrics—if it’s not consistent and on brand—it’s not worth it.
Global-e has been an incredible resource for the brand which is decidedly international. Global-e is a company that can tack onto a site and seamlessly take care of multi-currency and multi-payment options internationally.
The company offers 1,520 different currencies for eCommerce. Best of all—local payment options attach to the currencies so people are able to buy in a way they feel comfortable with a currency they are accustomed to using.
About Needle and Thread
Needle and Thread is a women’s wear brand that includes ready to wear and bridal. The brand very recently launched kids wear for ages 3-10 and are pleased with the results so far.
Revenue splits are 2/3 wholesale and 1/3 eCommerce with wholesale being sold to 30+ countries with a strictly curated mix of retailers. The company is very conscious about who they want to work with over the long term and so occassionally turn down interested retailers if it’s not a good fit.
The brand is based in the UK and manufactures in China and India. Overall, they have sold to 120 countries in 75 different currencies. The demographic breakdown of customers is: 30% UK, 25%US, 20% Middle East 15% Europe and 10% Asia and the rest of the world.
With fashion forward brands like Needle & Thread there is regularly an element of celebrity which can create some serious spikes in traffic and interest.
Mark says that the PR team works incredibly hard to get great representation for the brand and even though he admits it can cause operational snafus occasionally, it’s a bigger net gain overall.
The Duchess of Cambridge wore the brand in January and Mark says they saw a big spike in traffic directed initially toward that specific gown, but people eventually filtered over the entire website.
In 2019 the company received a Gold Customer service award. Mark says they work hard to ensure that the customer service is top notch.
The company regularly does mystery shopping with their own customer service team, not as a ruse to catch bad behavior, but rather as a proactive way to identify potential problem areas.
Overall, he says they prefer to focus on how to mitigate potential customer service inquiries by creating an all around stellar product from the very beginning—even ensuring that the fit of their clothing is responsive to customer needs.
eCommerce Book Top Tip
- Data Science for Business by Foster Provost and Tom Fawcett
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
eCommerce Traffic Top Tip
- Organic social and email. These things are free and can be incredibly powerful. Organic is a slow burn but has great dividends over time.
Tool Top Tip
- Process based on the Eisenhower Matrix. Focusing on the important over the urgent allows for greater growth. Even articulating what is most important is useful for teams.
Growth Top Tip
- Understand your process to scale. Needle & Thread starts with their opportunity, moves to establish a timeline and then looks at how to amplify and diversify.
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- How to manage 4500% growth with Daniel Wellington’s IT Director Daniel Näsman
- Tanya Heath Paris’ Tanya Heath on luxury fashion, international eCommerce and why her new site will be on Magento
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