Warby Parker Prepares for Its Market Debut


Warby Parker is set to go public on Wednesday in a direct listing that could value the trendy eyewear retailer at about $5 billion. (It was valued at $3 billion in the private market just over a year ago.)

Warby is one of a number of direct-to-consumer brands, like AllBirds and Fabletics, set to make market debuts in the coming months. The companies aim to take advantage of sky-high valuations for tech companies and strong interest in consumer names. Neil Blumenthal and Dave Gilboa, Warby’s co-founders and chief executives, spoke about how the brand got here and what comes next, the DealBook newsletter reports.

Warby’s sales grew 6 percent in 2020, beating rivals like the parent of Ray-Ban, EssilorLuxottica, whose sales fell by double digits over the same period. Warby’s mix of online and in-store sales “enabled us to take market share, even during the year that we were hobbled,” Mr. Blumenthal said. But that came at a cost: The company’s marketing spend jumped to 19 percent of sales in 2020 from 13 percent the previous year.

Warby was one of the first brands born online that sought to combine the brand awareness that comes from stores with the reach of digital sales. (It was founded in 2010, opened its first dedicated store in 2013 and now has 145 retail outlets, with plans to open more.) Warby generated about two-thirds of its revenue in stores before the pandemic, but the mix of in-person and online sales is now closer to 50-50 because of various restrictions. As for the ideal mix, the company is “channel agnostic,” Mr. Gilboa said.

“Clearly, a lot of companies that have raised money are looking to access a broader investor base,” Mr. Blumenthal said, seeking to distinguish Warby — whose direct listing won’t raise new funds — from others. So far this year, 12 internet retail companies have gone public, compared with nine last year, according to Renaissance Capital. Performance of these and related retail names have been mixed: Shares of Honest Company, Jessica Alba’s wellness brand, are down 53 percent since listing, while Figs, the upmarket scrubs company, is up 29 percent.



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