Warby Parker Is Following Allbirds and Honest Co. Toward Wall Street
Warby Parker, since its 2010 inception, has arguably become the poster child for retail category disruption. And besides becoming one of the most successful direct-to-consumer brands of the early 21st Century, they also harnessed the power of omnichannel or unified commerce to build their brand.
Channeling the Consumer
And while the pandemic caused their store-based sales to plummet in March of 2020, its now recovering faster than first expected. Warby’s Co-founder Neil Blumenthal recently told the Wall Street Journal “We’ve seen retail sales, especially in the last two weeks (of May) bounce back faster than we anticipated, and when we speak to other retailers, they’re experiencing the same.” He went on to report that while transactions are well split 50-50 between store and online sales, like many other omnichannel retailers, 75% of their customers that end up buying in stores began their “path-to-purchase” online.
So based on their heightened appreciation for the synergy between the stores and the net, they are on track to open 35 new stores this year. This would add to the existing 149 total locations in over 104 cities and 33 states, according to ScrapeHero.
It is also worth noting that given the current retail rental market, they are taking advantage of highly desirable rates and terms, given the record number of retail vacancies. It has been reported that many more landlords are becoming open to negotiating percentage rents, which are favorable to retailers.
Since its founding, Warby Parker has successful raised in excess of $500 million in funding. With its most recent 2020 funding round of $120 million, it has given them a valuation of $3 billion. In the same WSJ May 29 interview, regarding rumors of a possible public offering, Mr. Blumenthal suggested they would see the “possibility of going public as a financing event or a liquidity event” and went on to suggest “there’s not any timing catalysts that we’re thinking about.”
MORE FOR YOU
Yet, Tuesday’s press release about Warby Parker confidentially filing a draft document with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding a proposed public listing, was not a complete surprise. It would not be a stretch to imagine that they see a “window of opportunity” to take advantage of the current distressed retail leasing market to fund their 10% footprint expansion, without stressing cashflow significantly.
Given the degree to which Warby has cracked the code of online/offline synergy, they would be leveraging highly desirable rates and terms. Additionally, it has been reported that many more landlords are becoming open to negotiating percentage rents, which are highly favorable to retailers. They would also be “slipstreaming” a host of other upshots headed toward Wall Street in lockstep, including Silicon Valley’s Allbirds, which I recently reported on as well as Jessica Alba’s Honest Co and Sweetgreen. Forward, march!