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ModCloth Returns to Europe

Originally published, Sept. 15, 2020

The company is branching back out after Go Global bought it from Walmart last year.

ModCloth’s post-Walmart life has brought it back to its roots and, now, back to Europe.

The vintage-inspired, e-commerce company quietly reopened in Europe last week and will begin to push the business in the region forward this week, reconnecting with fans online and courting new customers.

Europe was an important market for ModCloth before it was snapped up by Walmart in 2017 as part of a mini fashion acquisition spree by the retail giant. Walmart made a number of changes, including pulling out of Europe, but ultimately ModCloth wasn’t a good fit and the brand was sold last year to Go Global.

The investment firm, founded by fashion veteran Jeff Streader, is backed by Asian suppliers and is looking to pull together a portfolio of brands and remains on the hunt as the industry resets.

Job one for Go Global was to super charge ModCloth — as luck would have it, during the first rush of the coronavirus pandemic.

The change in owners saw ModCloth close its wholesale business and shutter its stores in New York, Austin, Tex., San Francisco and Washington, D.C., while zeroing in on its e-commerce business.

That amounted to something like good timing since the pandemic has given online sellers a boost.

And the European customer remembers ModCloth.

“For a company that has not served Europe for two years, we still had a lot of people following us,” said Sabina Weber, senior vice president of marketing and e-commerce. “This is a very smart, vocal group of women. They know what they like and they wanted us back and it was kind of that demand along with the data that we saw from the prior years that made this decision [to go back to Europe] pretty obvious.”

European shoppers getting reacquainted will find a brand getting back to its roots of “vintage-inspired clothes that fit a diverse group of women…who live to find these treasures in a world of sameness,” Weber said.

Mary Jimenez, senior vice president of design and merchandising, described the brand’s approach as “vintage made relevant” and said ModCloth was getting back to what customers have been wanting.

That includes a fresh eye on production, which seeks to distill looks from the past.

“We design all of our own prints,” Jimenez said. “We don’t buy prints from the market. They’re all based on vintage prints.”

So far, none of Go Global’s backers are producing goods for ModCloth, but that is a possibility down the line or in future deals.

Streader, who serves as co-chief executive officer of ModCloth, said the business, which has been refinanced with new debt and is updating its technological backbone, could serve as a base for new acquisitions.

“We are looking to add to the platform,” Streader said. “ModCloth is a platform and we are actively pursuing bolt-ons.”

He added that any such acquisitions could be smaller than ModCloth — which is operating at an annual run rate of more than $100 million in sales now — but that it could also take on a bigger business.

“We’ve seen David slay Goliath recently,” Streader said.

Given all the COVID-19 turmoil, many businesses could be up for grabs.

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