Jacques Wessel Rheeder is the Managing Director of Threads. To learn more about the unique concept behind Threads and get to know Jacques up close, we came into contact with him for this interview.
When we asked Jacques about how exactly Threads began, he replied, “Threads was really a no-name brand, with no specific market positioning. It was a concept with a captured market, and it depended on the principle that the customer had to buy from them – a kiss of death for any retailer, no matter your positioning in the marketplace.
The challenge was thus to break down all the disciplines and install new Threads with high-street retailing disciplines and the correct core values and vision. Thus, the idea was to create/develop a ‘high street’ retail concept, a BRAND supported by unique products that were not fashionable but still uniquely essential.”
Jacques, currently the Managing Director of Threads, comes from a fashion background, though not from uniform retailers like Threads as much as international brands like Zara, Pull and Bear, Express, The Limited Marks & Spencer, Banana Republic, The Gap, Aldo, and Steve Madden. He says, “these were competitive environments that gave him experience in brand repositioning and customer trust development.”
Immediately before Threads, his experience veered away from these International brands toward companies focusing on the highly competitive sector “Fast Fashion and Value “fashion and textiles retailers in the Middle East and South Africa. He was headhunted by brands like Mr. Price, Ackermans, Dunns, Red Tag, INC, and 2Go, struggling/start-up labels that required a substantial effort to be turned around or being repositioned within their respective market sectors. With his acclaimed success in achieving these revitalizations, Jacques was hired to drive a similar reversal for Threads using the lessons he’d learned from his past experiences.
“Firstly, one has to accept that although a business has to be ‘turned around, not everything that was done in the past was or is wrong.” Get to know how the business got to its current stage and understand the previous visions and missions if there were any.” He says.
When we asked him to share some advice with beginners, he replied:
“Make sure you understand the market sector that they are operating within. Gain as much knowledge of the past as possible. It is always easy to criticize and find fault with any concept. Still, it is more important to know where the business has been and why before you can in any way strategize a new game plan, vision, or any repositioning strategy.”
When we asked Jacques about the goals of Threads, he said, “The goal is to be a leader in the field of uniforms and Sportswear, to be innovative as so far as fabrics and designs are concerned. In addition, always be at the cutting edge of new fabric developments, fashion trends, and concepts.
We apply the above to our various market sectors to ensure that our products are state of the art and in sync with International trends and quality standards.”
As we always say, teamwork is important in business growth. That’s why we asked what makes the team successful, according to him.
“When I took over THREADS, I had a staff component that had little if any knowledge or experience in retail and manufacturing of uniforms. We spent hours debating and gaining knowledge from each other. I had a vision and a dream. However, when I spoke to my people, I could see in their eyes they did not share it with me. Not because they did not want to, but purely because of their lack of experience and also their innate fear of failure.
They were previously managed in a very different style to mine. ‘Empowering’ people were or are buzzwords; actually doing it is a totally different story. We made a lot of mistakes together; we took the learnings and gradually built confidence, trust, and respect for one another.” says Jacques.
“Once I understood the mindset of the people, I could then make sure that they understand, support and most importantly, believe in the new way forward,” he recalls. “I took most – if not all – of them out of their comfort zones. Change is not always acceptable to everyone, so I made sure it was a ‘we’ scenario and not a dictatorial, ‘do as I say’ scenario.
We launched our new retail concept and product lines to huge success. I had a team that tasted success and became unstoppable. They were no longer scared of making mistakes….however, the Golden rule was “you can only make a mistake once…..learn from it and move forward.”
A Team that respects, trusts, and supports one another, will always be successful, according to him.
That’s not it. He has something more to say about teamwork.
Jacques says, “Although we have spoken about the internal teamwork, it is essential to understand that the external team, our suppliers are just as crucial to the business’s success. We are fortunate to have collaborated with one of the most Professional and highly experienced Global Sourcing / Buying Companies, QUEENSWAY INTERNATIONAL, in our quest to make our products as unique and quality oriented as mentioned earlier.
A successful product-driven business is only as good as its supply chain. It is thus extremely important to work with or associate with SMEs that are leaders in the respective disciplines.”
Since we were discussing teams, we also asked Jacques, “How important are employees’ energy levels to the success of Threads?”
He said, “This is vital. It is an important part of our culture to ensure everyone has and shares the same values and vision. We energize the team constantly by celebrating small wins; then, we will definitely win the Big Battle. When we do something good….the first question is, ‘How can we do it better’ To be continuously challenged, the energy levels are automatically high and contagious.”
“How do you plan to motivate your team to go the extra mile?”
“As I said earlier, we are a small, close-knit team, trust and support, same goals and the will to be successful. Communication is key, a flat structure with no Ivory Towers.
We share in all our ups and downs, we share in the successes l failures of our ventures, and we ‘TALK TO EACH OTHER,’” says Jacques.
Okay, that’s all about teamwork, but how about solving challenges? After all, most companies have some challenges in their way to growth. How did you overcome your challenges?
Jacques says, “As a believer in collaborative management, I put my employees first, asserting that a well-treated team will, in turn, look after customers. My strategy for empowering my team involves giving them the agency and freedom to make decisions – and mistakes – within their jurisdictions.
I feel this approach has left Threads with a team of ‘equals with a common goal and ideology, with the ability to adjust to a constantly changing world. Unfortunately, we have to deal with individuals with no knowledge and/or experience in Retail and Manufacturing. This adds unnecessary pressure to managing a growing and demanding business. We do, however, turn this negative into a major positive.”
We asked Jacques if technology was helping his company grow. “Of course, one of the most consistently transformative sources of change is technology, something that formed the core of the revitalization. Threads were using fairly dated and non-retail-friendly technology. A thorough revamp of all systems was done to ensure that the business at all levels was enhanced. Speed, accuracy, and ease of use were quintessentially our main aim,” Jacques shares.
“This was arguably one of the most important factors that led to our success. Technology is beyond important to be competitive and a leader in one’s field today. If you do not use cutting-edge, up-to-date technology, your competitors will be far ahead of you. Technology changes rapidly, so one must stay in touch and tune. You can’t change continuously, but your systems must be prepared for change. Technology is beyond important to be competitive and a leader in one’s field today.” He further continues.
Furthermore, we also asked him how Threads is adapting to digitalization.
He said, “We use digitalization as much as possible. We are the first and the only uniform Retailer in the world and region that has developed a digital Sizing method for our eCommerce business. Furthermore, we collaborated with MY SIZE, an International leader in digital sizing technology. We have successfully implemented the algorithm and digitized methods for measuring a child size on the E Com platform, a first worldwide for a Business of our nature.”
Our in-store experience is 90% digitalized – from a booking system to our checkout process, our CRM, and feedback processes.
“Respectfully said, we are unique. Our concept is homegrown, Internationally a leader, and unmatched. Other competitors have tried to copy or replicate various sectors/disciplines of our business. However, to bake a good chocolate cake, you need all the ingredients, not just the icing. Their poorly executed efforts are more complementary than damaging!” said Jacques.
He further continues, “In 2021, we won the prestigious Retail ME award for the ‘Most admired Children’s Wear Retailer,’ a world first for a School Uniform Retailer…..beating International Fashion Childrenswear Retail Brands. “
Lastly, we asked Jacques if he had something else to share with our viewers.
“Everybody wants to be successful…..as cliché’d as it may sound, it takes blood, sweat, and tears. It takes hard work and tenacity. However, if you have the strength to endure, success will come! Please do not become complacent or sit back and smile. Challenge the norms and successes. Behind you are ten people doing just that. Be proud, but stay humble!” he says while concluding the interview.
Connect with Jacques Wessel Rheeder on LinkedIn.
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