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Thrillist Hires New Commerce Chief as JackThreads Founder Departs

Mark Walker has held executive roles at Rue La La, Dockers and Gap.

Thrillist Media Group
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Thrillist Media Group has hired Mark Walker, a veteran of Rue La La and Gap, to be its new president of commerce, as the media company increasingly relies on its e-commerce business to generate the majority of its revenue.

In the new role, Walker will oversee JackThreads — the company’s men’s shopping site — as well as e-commerce integrations on its media properties, including the men’s lifestyle website Thrillist and gadgets and gear site Supercompressor.

Walker told Re/code in an interview that one of his top priorities will be figuring out the right way to create a private-label apparel business that carries the JackThreads name. He also said he intends to make sure that the company puts a lot of thought into why it might sell a given product on the company’s media properties.

The hire comes as JackThreads founder Jason Ross leaves the company. Ross launched JackThreads as a men’s flash sales site (selling products within a fixed timeframe) in 2008 and sold it to Thrillist in 2010. He had started to transition out of his lead role at JackThreads last year when he moved from New York to his home state of Ohio and officially left within the last month.

JackThreads has become a huge piece of Thrillist Media Group’s revenue, comprising about 65 percent of Thrillist’s revenue in 2012. This year, it should make up around 75 percent to 80 percent, with sales reaching $75 million to $80 million this year, co-founder and CEO Ben Lerer said in an interview. The company’s media business, which sells display ads and sponsored posts, made up another $20 million to $25 million in revenue this year, he said.

While Thrillist Media Group has been profitable in the past, it was not profitable this year and won’t be next year either, Lerer said. That is partly by design, as the company looks to raise a sizable round of financing in the first half of 2015 to invest in new business opportunities, he added. The company has raised $15 million since it launched in 2004.

Walker will be entering a company in transition. JackThreads, which historically only sold off-price apparel from third-party brands in time-sensitive sales, has been adding more full-price goods to its online catalogue this year. It has also increasingly focused on creating a sizable assortment of clothing sold under brand names the company has created. The company has also been experimenting with the right way to sell goods directly on and without compromising the reading experience.

“The idea isn’t that every article you read is a shop-able article,” he said.

Lerer said he was looking to hire an executive who had traditional retail merchandising experience coupled with some time spent in a digital role. Walker spent six years at Gap and two years at Dockers before running Rue La La’s men’s business over the past two years.

JackThreads benefits from promotion on, whose traffic has grown rapidly over the past year. The site attracted 12 million visitors in November, according to ComScore, up from four million visitors last year. Lerer said a big chunk of that growth has come from referrals from social media, including Facebook. Thrillist sometimes buys promoted posts on Facebook to increase readership of its sponsored posts, but Lerer maintained that the vast majority of traffic growth has been organic.

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