The RealReal Inc. enjoyed a warm welcome on Wall Street Friday as the financial types sensed opportunity at the intersection of digital, luxury and resale.
But it remains to be seen just how long investors are willing to wait for profits while the company builds momentum. For now, The RealReal is growing fast enough to buy it some time.
The stock shot up 44.5 percent to $28.90 after its initial public offering Friday, giving the resaler a market capitalization of $2.4 billion. The offering was priced at $20 a share, which came in above the $17 to $19 projected and raised $300 million, which the company plans to use to grow its business.
Chief executive officer Julie Wainwright, who didn’t sell any shares in the offering, controls 7.2 percent of the firm through 6.1 million shares, which are now valued at $176.4 million.
Wainwright started the business in 2011 and guided it up a steep growth curve. It processed 1.6 million orders last year and drove revenue up 55 percent to $207.4 million, representing a gross merchandise value of $710.8 million.
Still, The RealReal hasn’t cracked the code on profitability — losses widened to $84.7 million last year from $54.9 million. It spent $139 to bring in each new buyer to its platform in 2018.
But it has lived up to the tech-based moniker of disruptor.
The company treats the closets of luxury shoppers as a supply chain. It takes in goods on consignment and authenticates, prices, displays and ultimately sells them, online or through one of its stores.
“The existing luxury resale market is outdated, fragmented, difficult to access and laden with counterfeit goods,” The RealReal said in its IPO paperwork. “Primarily due to these challenges, a vast quantity of consignable luxury goods languishes in homes, and buyers can be hesitant to purchase preowned luxury goods. We are transforming the luxury resale experience by addressing these challenges.”
Frost & Sullivan has pegged the total addressable market of luxury goods “potentially available for resale” in U.S. homes at a massive $198 billion.
That doesn’t mean that luxury consumers are ready to unload their closets. But the numbers are big enough for brands and investors to recognize a vein that’s rich enough for the company to start causing some trouble.
And while Stella McCarthy is working with The RealReal, seeing a kindred spirit in terms of sustainability, other brands have been challenging the company.
Luxury heavyweight Chanel sued the company on trademark- and advertising-related claims, asserting that only the brand can authenticate its own goods.
In April, a RealReal spokeswoman told WWD: “Chanel’s lawsuit is nothing more than an alarmingly thuggish effort to stop consumers from reselling their authentic used goods, and to prevent customers from buying those goods at discounted prices.”
The company is also seen as a threat to “accessible luxury” brands.
An analysis by investment research firm Jane Hali & Associates pointed to brands such as Coach, Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Tory Burch as among names that could lose some share to The RealReal.
“This is because online resale platforms serve up high-end luxury bags and fashion at affordable prices,” the analysis said. “Those same people who once couldn’t afford to buy for example Valentino, may be less inclined to spend their money on entry-level, affordable luxury.”
Like Rent the Runway in the rental business, The RealReal is seen as a leader in a new way to approach fashion. Also tackling the resales space are Poshmark, another IPO candidate, and TreadUp.
The warm reception to the RealReal’s IPO showed that investors are still keen on fashion — if it has a strong brand or a new approach.
The data- and influencer-savvy Revolve Group’s stock jumped 89 percent on its first day of trading this month, while denim cornerstone Levi Strauss & Co. jumped 32 percent on its introduction in March and luxury platform Farfetch gained 42 percent right after its IPO in September.
Now, the question is whether the RealReal and the rest of Wall Street’s fashion newcomers can continue to grow under the ever-watchful eye of investors who are always going to want more.