Catching up with: Jason Ross, JackThreads

by Elise Diamantini

When JackThreads founder Jason Ross started his menswear flash sale site, he had semi-trucks delivering merchandise to his Ohio home. That was in 2008. A lot has changed since then: Thrillist acquired the company in 2010, there are over 2 million members today and last year JackThreads did more than $20 million in sales. JackThreads found its niche in the contemporary and streetwear markets with best-selling brands like Nuco, WeSC, Billabong and The Hundreds. We caught up with Ross just as he was preparing to shop Agenda Long Beach.

What’s new at JackThreads?
A lot! We just launched two private label lines: Goodale and Vive. Goodale is our contemporary line and Vive is a blanks/basics collection. We’ve had an incredible response to both, so we’re placing a larger emphasis on private label for 2013. The goal is to launch 6 to 12 private label brands so we can feature a different brand every week or two. We’re learning a lot from our customer’s buying patterns and that’s helping us create the lines. We also found that our customers don’t look to us just to find the big brands at a discount; it’s about discovery and if we put the right product at the right price they’ll buy it. Both lines are priced competitively to our other brands. (Goodale tops sell from $30 to $40, outerwear from $60 to $100, denim from $40 to $60. Vive can range from $15 to $30 for T-shirts, tanks, Henleys and hoodies.

Your business is completely digital. How are you using social media?
We’re investing a lot in social and between now and the end of the year will continue building on Facebook’s Open Graph. We want to make our experience much more social, so guys have a better understanding of what their friends are buying and how they’re shopping, etc. We’re also experimenting more with Pinterest and have noticed that’s driving a lot of traffic to the site. We just started embedding Pinterest “share” links within all of our item pages. The early data from that is positive and so we’re investing more there.

Are you doing anything with editorial content?
We just hired a content director, so we’re placing a lot of emphasis on creating unique and original content to editorialize our sales and brands. We’re doing things like bringing in celebrities and tastemakers to model or curate guest sales. We’re going to do more things like embedding unique video into some of our sales. We just had a sale with a curated assortment of comic-themed fashion, accessories and home décor items and we had live footage from Comic Con streaming throughout the sale. We also had [rapper] Asher Roth curate a sale for us. We’ll have more industry tastemakers launching within the next month or so. We’re finding out what our customers want through focus groups and research, and are learning that guys come back to JackThreads because we’re making their lives easier by offering them a selection of product in one place, so that they don’t have to spend the time searching for it themselves. They look to us to discover what’s cool—whether it’s introducing them to a fashion brand or helping them discover new music—all of our content is going to support this lifestyle that they aspire to live.

What’s Thrillist’s involvement in the content generated on JackThreads?
Thrillist has created its own trusted editorial voice that speaks to their guy. Our brand speaks to a slightly different guy but there is some crossover, so we’ll take some of their theories and build on the unique voice that we’re creating. Thrillist has created intent-driven content: when we put something in front of their reader, they react. We’ve tried to mirror that on JackThreads and are finding that guys are taking action: they shop, they buy and they invite friends. Being a part of Thrillist has enabled us to make fewer mistakes just because of the infrastructure they had in place.

What’s up next? Any plans to grow beyond flash sales?
It’s interesting because we launched as an outlet for brands to liquidate product in a discreet way, and now, it’s become much more than that. We’ve really turned into a marketing engine. We built a massive, captive audience, so I don’t want to only be a flash sale retailer. I want to turn this into a lifestyle platform and we’re thinking about different ways to do that.

There are so many ways to work with brands on creating new product and inventory, allowing them to leverage every asset and create more revenue. A big opportunity for us has been looking at old graphics that brands don’t use anymore and bringing them back on various merchandise. We’re also working with certain brands on launching their latest collections a week or two before it hits stores. For example, if the The Hundreds is launching their spring 2013 collection, they’ll feature it full-price on JackThreads a week or two before guys can buy it in the stores. Every customer that buys something from the pre-sale will get a coupon for the next time they shop at JackThreads. It creates value for the brand, because they’re able to reach our audience at full-price, there’s value in it for our customers because they can buy it early, and it’s a kickback to JackThreads because they’ll come back to redeem the coupon.

But don’t you think this might alienate the retailers who pick up the line?
No, the brands look at it as a marketing angle for them. The sale is 24 to 48 hours, so there’s a very small chance of them having one of their retailers lose a sale and I don’t think that outweighs the mass marketing value of it.