E.l.f. Beauty was a hit with the public markets on Thursday.
The mass-market beauty company’s stock, priced at $17 for a $141.6 million raise, closed at $26.50 on its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
“We believe we have an incredible growth business here that we are interested in building for the long term,” said chairman and chief executive officer Tarang Amin, who has headed the business for about a year.
E.l.f.’s shares opened at $24, then traded in the $25 to $26 range for most of the day.
“The Dow also had a great day, too — that helps,” said Martin Okner, managing director at SHM Corporate Navigators, an advisory firm that works with beauty companies. “The Fed’s opinion that U.S. growth is looking stronger and rate increases are likely before year-end, that certainly helped with investor confidence,” he said.
E.l.f.’s first move, Amin said, will be paying down debt. Then, the company plans to use capital to expand, he said, adding that growth with national retailers and “really across all channels,” has already been strong. The business has also started opening its own doors, including nine in the New York/New Jersey area and two in California.
The business posted $96.8 million in sales for the first half of the year, up from $75.2 million year-over-year. For 2015, E.l.f. brought in sales of $181.4 million, up from $144.9 million for 2014, documents show. The company’s two main retail distribution points are Wal-Mart and Target, which combined accounted for 51 percent of net sales for 2015, according to public documents.
“Our brand is growing fast and is highly productive,” Amin said. “Last year, we entered CVS and we have a very nice business with them, and the year before we entered Old Navy….We’re always looking at other opportunities for us when it comes to ‘Where does the makeup enthusiast want to buy E.l.f. Cosmetics.’”
E.l.f.’s growth strategy includes adding new customers, driving sales and margin with innovation, expanding into adjacent and relevant categories and growing brand penetration by growing space in existing retail doors, the business outlined in its S-1, which was filed in late August.
“On a macro trend level, consumers are really going toward smaller, niche brands and E.l.f. still fits in that category….In the consumer’s eyes, so I can see them taking space from larger competitors,” Okner said.
The business also has room to grow in international markets, which make up about 7 percent of its sales. “We have a focused expansion strategy internationally,” Amin said, adding that the company will still be primarily focused on expanding in the U.S.
When founders Alan and Joseph Shama founded the business in 2004, the focus was on selling quality beauty products that all women could afford.
“Their business model was so disruptive,” Amin said. “Being quite innovative, they were one of the first brands that went direct to consumer with elfcosmetics.com, the speed at which we were able to introduce products to the market was quite innovative as well.” E.l.f. is able to get new products out in 20 weeks, according to the company.
Other beauty companies that are publicly traded, such as Estée Lauder and Coty Inc., have gone on to build their businesses through acquisition sprees. Asked about E.l.f.’s M&A aspirations, Amin said: “We’re always open to different ideas and thoughts in terms of how we continue to grow the business…but we have a very strong base of organic growth, and that is what we’ll continue to focus on.”
Some industry sources seem to think that the company remains a ripe target for a larger player. “I don’t think it’s going to sit on the market as a publicly traded company for very long — maybe two to three years at the [maximum],” Okner said. “They are a good target for a consumer products company that needs a high-growth brand at the opening price point.”
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Piper Jaffray and Wells Fargo Securities were the book runners for the IPO.