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Thread eyes global markets with cash injection

Menswear personal-styling website will grow its artificial intelligence teams and brand awareness, and explore international expansion, after securing an additional $22m (£16.7m) in funding this week.

The Series B funding round was led by H&M group’s investment arm H&M Co:Lab. Additional funding came from venture capitalists Balderton Capital, Beringea and Forward Partners, alongside the executive chairman of fashion and retail investor Amery Capital, Maurice Helfgott, and the former deputy president of luxury goods at Lane Crawford, Sebastian Picardo. The latest round brings total investment in Thread to more than $40m (£30.4m). Previous investors include retail veteran Andrew Jennings.

Thread CEO Kieran O’Neill told Drapers the partnership with H&M Co:Lab will provide valuable insight for its international expansion: “H&M is one of the best global retail companies, and when it comes to understanding customers and how guys shop globally, they can offer way more than a normal investor can.”

Although the site is currently “laser-focused on men in the UK”, Thread hopes to expand to international markets such as the US and Europe and launch a womenswear offer. 

Thread initially traded successfully in San Franciso when it first launched in 2012. 

O’Neill said: ”I grew up in Bermuda and so I feel like it is [the US] a market that I understand and would be a big one to succeed in.” However, the company pulled back from the initial international venture after six months, to focus on UK menswear, due to being only a team of five at the time.

Thread will also use the new investment to develop and expand its artificial intelligence (AI) team, which currently comprises 15 people, as well as increase brand awareness through new marketing strategies. It will hire more engineers and data scientists, and improve web design to create an even more personalised service.

O’Neill explained: “We’re working on how we can have the models wearing the clothes look like you or get the description to fit you. For example, if it knows you’re tall, it will highlight to you the longer leg length.

“There are a lot of business that are talking about personalisation, but there are very few that are actually doing it well.”

The brand will launch its first outdoor ad campaign in a couple of weeks on London Underground. It is exploring new channels to reach its customer base, including app development, Reddit and Pinterest, and is in the process of testing influencer marketing.

With a 79% compound annual growth rate, the company’s niche approach is attracting customers and brands. It has recently signed a further 50 labels, including Polo Ralph Lauren and Hugo Boss, taking the total number of brands it offers to 536. 

Thread launched in London in 2012 and was as part of the Y Combinator seed funding programme, which also helped to launch Airbnb and Dropbox.

It’s time to shout about your online achievements

Drapers Digital Awards 2019 are open for entry. Recognising the best of the best in ecommerce across the fashion industry in the UK and Ireland there are 15 categories open for entry, new additions include Best Use of AI, Best Use of Digital Personalisation and Best Digital Launch in an International Market and Best Digital Customer Engagement and Retention Strategy. 

For 2019, we have also introduced a Best Digital Innovation category, which can be entered by fashion retailers as well as technology suppliers. 

The awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 15 May at The Brewery, Londonas a culmination of the Drapers Digital Festival.



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