Kendra Scott might just be fashion’s next billion-dollar baby.
The Austin, Tex.-based fashion jewelry brand is in the late stages of an auction to sell off a minority stake — a process that could value the rapidly growing company at $1 billion, sources estimated.
Given the size of the check that would be required to buy the 30 to 40 percent of the company said to be in play, the buyer is expected to be one of the larger private equity players. Advent International, which has stakes in Lululemon Athletica Inc., Charlotte Russe and many others, is said to be one of the bidders in the auction.
It’s a big price tag that would be supported by the company’s swift growth, its potential to continue expanding and a deal structure that might allow the buyer to receive some kind of a dividend for its involvement.
One financial source said Kendra Scott has annual earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of more than $70 million and that the company is “growing like a weed.”
The company has about 53 doors with revenues estimated above $200 million, up from 17 of its own stores and sales of $50 million in 2014.
In addition to online and at its own stores, Kendra Scott is sold at Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and specialty boutiques around the world.
The source said a $1 billion valuation was something of a stretch but not unrealistic, while others said the firm’s price tag could be even higher given the brand EBITDA margins above 30 percent.
The sellers in the auction are said to be Norwest Venture Partners, which bought into the company in 2014, and Kendra Scott, who serves as chief executive officer and founded the firm in 2002.
Norwest general partner Sonya Brown, who made the deal, declined to comment. Representatives for Scott, Jefferies and Advent did not respond to queries Wednesday afternoon.
Kendra Scott’s core is in Texas and Oklahoma and the company is said to be looking for additional funds to help it expand toward the coasts and to get into other categories.
That puts the brand in a sweet spot for growth investors, who are looking for concepts that have built up a big enough presence to prove they have real consumer traction but still have enough readily identifiable expansion paths that a buyer can easily take the business to the next level.
Importantly, Kendra Scott also has traction on social media, with 464,000 followers on Instagram.
While the brand has become a favorite of the financial set that’s always eager for the next big name, it hasn’t played as extensively in the fashion mainstream of New York or Los Angeles. Ironically, that has perhaps helped it connect with a durable and lucrative base in the center of the country that is sometimes missed by brands — and left-leaning politicians.
Scott sketched out her story at a WWD forum last year.
“Farmers and coal miners are my family in Kenosha, Wis. At seven years of age in a blue-collar community, I saw the magic of fashion,” she said, noting her aunt was a buyer at a local department store. “I went to school for business and marketing, but I had the fashion bug.”
At 19, she opened a shop called The Hat Box. The store closed, but stoked her retail fire.
Scott has a talent for looking on the bright side.
“The recession was a wonderful gift,” she said. “Stores we worked with for years were shuttering. All my eggs were in one basket. I realized I needed to talk to my customer and opened retail again in 2010. The company by year-end will operate 39 stores, with 15 to 20 slated to open in 2016.”
The brand hits a number of price points, with its web site carrying rose gold pendant necklaces at $65, pavé diamond and yellow gold earnings at $750 and a cuff bracelet in pavé diamond and yellow gold for $1,500.
The Kendra Scott brand is infused with philanthropy and supports various causes through events at its shops and online. Last month, the brand celebrated its first home collection by donating 20 percent of the purchases made online and at the company’s three Austin stores to the local Habitat for Humanity affiliate.