The story of e-commerce’s rise and retail’s fall is long and nuanced, but rarely told as literally as it was on Wall Street Monday.
Revolve’s stock shot up 89 percent in its first day of trading and perked up as much as another 32 percent on Monday to peak at $44.76 before giving that back and closing for the day down 2.1 percent at $33.30. The techie newcomer ended with a market capitalization of $2.3 billion.
On the other hand, Baker, one of retail’s foremost empire builders, served up a deal to try to take Saks Fifth Avenue-parent HBC private again — after a six-and-a-half-year journey as a public company and at a stock valuation of about 1.7 billion Canadian dollars, or $1.3 billion.
Take it as a sign the digital revolution is growing up and that investors are liking it.
Mike Karanikolas, co-chief executive officer of Revolve, told WWD last week: “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…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.”
Revolve is growing quickly — sales gained 24.8 percent to $498.7 million last year — and it will have to maintain that momentum to keep investors happy, but right now, the idea of a big digital storefront that uses technology to power its decision making is winning.
Baker, who is executive chairman at HBC and architect of the retailer’s modern incarnation, said, “While we continue to believe in HBC’s long-term potential, it has become clear that the significant challenges, risks and uncertainties facing HBC in the rapidly evolving retail environment are best addressed in a private market setting.”
The revamp, he said, will “require significant time and patient long-term capital.”
As Baker seeks to step away from the glare of the public markets to rejigger, it’s still not clear just what role the stores will play in the future, beyond being “experiential,” and the market dynamic is changing fast as consumers’ preferences shift with a new generation of shoppers.
Eric Gervet, partner in the retail and digital transformation practices of consultancy A.T. Kearney, framed the shift not as a move to digital from physical, but a tilting toward platform companies and away from traditional firms that rely on a supply chain where a little bit of value is added each step along the way and retailers cash in their bit at the end.
Gervet said platforms, such as Revolve, focus in on what consumers see, driving engagement and enlisting users to help spotlight goods instead of expending as much energy on asset-heavy supply chains that operate behind the curtain.
“Platforms make it super easy for people to get advice, access new stuff through discovery and make it convenient,” he said.
It’s a shift that’s much larger than fashion.
Gervet said of the top 50 companies in the world, platforms generate 26 percent of the shareholder value, up from 6 percent a decade ago. In another five years, he said platforms could account for half the shareholder value for the largest players in the market.
And there are plenty vying for the future in fashion.
Online styling service Stitch Fix Inc. saw its client count jump 17 percent to 3.1 million in its fiscal third quarter and was rewarded with a big stock gain. The RealReal Inc. has filed to bring its secondhand take on luxury to the broader investing world. And Rent the Runway, on the vanguard of the rental movement, is also seen as an IPO candidate.