The company has confirmed the appointment as ceo of Antonio Nieves, who rejoined ModCloth – he previously served as the company’s cfo – in October after the departure of former ceo Matthew Kaness, who had been with the company since 2015. Nieves returns to the firm after having served as cfo and chief operating officer of Bonobos. He will be based out of Los Angeles, which ModCloth now calls its headquarters. It previously had been based out of San Francisco, where it continues to have a presence.
The biggest change for Nieves, after being away from ModCloth, is of course its new parent Walmart, which acquired the business last year and later bought Bonobos.
“The beauty of the Walmart organization is that you’ve got a lot of brilliant individuals who are experts in their field,” Nieves said, pointing out the benefits that come with being backed by the retailer in the way of expertise in areas such as fulfillment and tax strategy to international delivery.
That will come in handy as Nieves assesses where to take Modcloth, with the focus remaining on the domestic market, at least in the near term.
“We’re really focused on a couple things,” he said. “One is, really, to continue to amplify and drive forward the focus on enabling self-expression and really allowing the customer to be the best version of themselves and creating the right merchandise and the right message and tone.”
What that means, Nieves said, will come in the form of “multiple different avenues, some of which we are still in the process of rolling out and will continue to unveil as we move forward.”
Part of that rollout will be new marketing channels for the company. In the fall, ModCloth launched its first-ever full-fledged catalog, where Nieves sees plenty of potential. Two weeks ago it dropped its latest catalog.
It’s an interesting move as it does a few things, Nieves pointed out. For starters the catalog is a tangible way of bringing the digitally-native brand to the consumer. The other is that it provides an avenue for education on product styling, making suggestions of how to create multiple looks with a single item.
Another tactic that’s brought the brand closer to the consumer is brick-and-mortar. Fifteen months ago ModCloth opened its first and only fit shop in Austin, Tex. Not much has happened since then in the way of expanding the concept, but Nieves said “there’s potential to expand upon that and we’re evaluating that as an opportunity similar to one of the other brands in the Walmart portfolio, Bonobos,” as it relates to providing a unique in-store experience.
When asked whether the market could expect another permanent or pop-up door from the brand sometime this year, the ceo said it’s something being explored but there was nothing concrete to reveal.
The emphasis on individual channels and digital versus physical is partially no longer relevant for where retail’s at, a sentiment echoed across the Shoptalk conference that wrapped in Las Vegas Wednesday in which executive after executive talked up the need to throw out the mentality of different sales channels in favor of simply focusing on the consumer.
“It’s got to be solely focused around treating experiences that truly connect and have a relationship with the consumer,” Nieves said. “That over-indexing of focusing on digital was probably a bit of an overreaction and I think it’s about how do you utilize multiple different touch points to create genuine relationships with the consumer?…. It’s a combination of all these different things but the main thing is being consistent and how you’re connecting with the consumer and satisfying whatever gap that that consumer is experiencing in their life.”
So, for ModCloth, which was founded in 2002, what does the company look like when it’s all grown up and will there be a marked difference in the business at that point in its maturity? That’s up to customers to decide, Nieves said.
“Our mission is to enable the consumer to be the best version of themselves and so, for us, it’s really listening to the consumer,” he said. “From there, we’ll evolve the brand based on the needs of the consumer so we’re really tapped into engaging with the consumer.”