Threadless has designs on Asia; Singapore a big part of its plans
November 8, 2012 by Terence LEE
It turns out that Singapore was the top buyer of Threadless T-shirts last year, as far as cities go. And while Sydney has pipped Singapore for the top spot in 2012, the little red dot still makes up an outsized proportion of the company’s revenue.
So it’s unsurprising that Threadless, which crowdsources designs and turns them into T-shirts, is now seeking for partners in Singapore to better serve its customer base here.
During SGE’s exclusive interview with the team, which is currently in the country for a Threadless party (almost 2,000 revelers have RSVPed), we’ve learnt that they’re looking to partner brick and mortar retailers to distribute their shirts here. They’re also looking for on-demand printing services located in Singapore to improve the efficiency of T-shirt delivery.
When asked about why Singaporeans love Threadless shirts, Josh Nickell, the international strategist for the company, told us that their prices are pretty competitive compared to local shirts, even when shipping costs are factored in. Trade-friendly relations with the United States, which minimized issues with customs and duties, has helped.
“Also, I think our brand resonates well with the Singapore audience. We sell really cool art that Singapore digs… it’s a pretty Westernized culture, and most people speak English,” he said.
Josh is in Singapore with his brother Jake, founder of Threadless, and Craig Shimala, its multimedia specialist. They plan to be back for Crowdsourcing Week in April next year.
Interestingly, the company has begun seeing more artists from the region contribute their designs to the website and succeed at it.
“We have thriving artist communities coming in from Southeast Asia; namely from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” he said.
Their challenge now is to increase sales in Asia. Although the region as a whole is not a huge market for the company, they see opportunity for growth in Southeast Asia, India, and Japan.
While Threadless can expect to expand its market share fairly easily in Asia’s developed economies, the real challenge lies in the price-sensitive emerging markets where the demand for high-quality and well-designed products may not have reached a tipping point.
But there is no doubt an explosion in creative talent in Asia, a trend that Threadless has benefited from, but whether that can translate to a sizable market remains to be seen.
Across Asia, platformed creativity is on the rise, resulting in more online avenues for creative professionals and enthusiasts to monetize their talents. Sites like Indonesia’s Tees.co.id and Gantibaju.com, as well as Singapore’s Outeredit are putting their own twist to crowdsourced design, localizing their approach for the domestic markets.
Threadless’ increasing focus on Asia can give greater exposure to design-oriented products, which will surely benefit the Asian creative-tech community as a whole.
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE