Wall Street found its new fashion favorite.
Shares of the data- and influencer-savvy Revolve Group shot up 89 percent to $34 in their first day of trading Friday — a blockbuster initial public offering for what has been a relatively quiet player on the fashion business scene. The offering gave the company a market capitalization of $2.3 billion, including both the Class A shares offered to the public and the Class B supervoting shares.
The shares priced at $18 each in the IPO and almost all of the $211.8 million raised went to selling shareholders, particularly TSG Consumer Partners, which invested in Revolve in 2012.
The public market entrance — for a company that knows how to party and is famous for its influencer-laden soirées — puts a new kind of spotlight on Revolve, which is led by co-chief executive officers Mike Karanikolas and Michael Mente, who founded the firm in 2003.
Karanikolas is the more operations-minded of the pair and Mente plays more on the creative side, but both have a deep understanding of the whole business and work together on the big issues. They started Revolve with the long-term in mind and are determined to hold to that course now that the company is public. And they’re in a good position to do what they want: Together, they own 56.5 percent of the company’s stock, now valued at $1.3 billion.
In a joint interview at the New York Stock Exchange, the two were relaxed, having ended the grueling process of going public with a decidedly downmarket feast of chicken and fries from Burger King — Karanikolas and Mente are clearly sticking with the approach that’s taken them this far.
“The market is reacting to us having a unique combination of having built an incredible fashion brand, but then operating with technology and data to make decisions in a more effective way than traditional retail,” Karanikolas said. “It’s an incredibly strong competitive advantage, knowing how to connect with this consumer and knowing how to provide great fashion for her in a very automated, data-driven way.”
That, along with its performance — sales jumped 24.8 percent to $498.7 million last year while profits rose to $30.7 million — sets Revolve apart.
Mente added, “Especially in America, I do not think there are any other [public] fashion e-commerce brands out there and I think the market is really excited to see something like us, especially in contrast to traditional retail, [which has been] performing so poorly over the past decade plus.”
The co-ceos started Revolve with the idea that they wanted to build a sustainable, profitable business and had something of a slow burn. They came onto the scene relatively early, just a few years after the dot-com bust, but saw other brands garner more attention as they used venture funding to buy customers. Nasty Gal, for instance, was once seen as the next big thing only to go bankrupt and get bought by Boohoo.
Revolve pushed on and prevailed, but when it came to pitch itself to public investors, its approach needed to be explained.
Mente said: “I think because of all those headlines of other companies, people worry — it’s growth hacking. And we got lucky with the influencer thing and it’s hot. They really had to understand that this is really sound. We’ve been doing this influencer marketing for a decade. It’s just really fundamentally sound and proven.”
Revolve works with influencers both large and small as part of a marketing program that also includes other, more traditional digital techniques, like affiliate marketing and display ads.
But underlying it all is a substructure of proprietary algorithms that use the company’s 16 years of data to not only market product, but also develop, source and price it.
“If we didn’t have the data and technology skillset to really understand what the consumer wants and leverage that with good product, influencer marketing wouldn’t work,” Mente said.
Revolve stocks more than 45,000 new styles each year and tries not to overcommit to one look or trend.
“It’s a very repeatable and consistent process,” Karanikolas said. “We’re not reliant on the intuition of a creative director getting it right one year and then maybe not getting it right the next.”
The hope is that all the data and process helps Revolve tap into the next generation successfully.
When the company started, the oldest Millennial was 23. Now the oldest of Gen Z are 24.
Karanikolas said a third of the company’s social followers are in Gen Z, which Revolve is now targeting directly with its new online shop, Superdown.
Between holding on to and growing with Millennials and tapping into Gen Z, Karanikolas sees plenty of room.
“We’re less than 3 percent penetrated in our target audience, so there is huge opportunity for growth,” he said.
Wall Street seems to be seeing at least some of the same thing.