Fashion has a new crop of billion-dollar babies.
This story first appeared in the March 5, 2015 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Designer e-commerce marketplace Farfetch is the latest to see its valuation creep up to that magic number, after having raised $86 million in its latest round of funding. This brings the total raised by the eight-year-old company to more than $195 million. The round was led by Digital Sky Technologies, while existing investors Condé Nast International and Vitruvian Partners participated as well.
JustFab, which raised $85 million in August, is said to be valued at $1 billion as well, while Etsy, the go-to destination for handmade and vintage items and crafts, is estimated to be worth $2 billion. Rumors that flash-sale pioneer Gilt plans to go public have been circulating for years, but industry experts predict that Etsy will be the next “big” initial public offering in the space.
“Etsy has a great story. It’s growing fast, the timing is right because the markets are really frothy, and they have this really compelling story about the implosion of eBay,” Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, said.
(Late Wednesday, Etsy filed for an initial public offering to raise $100 million.)
A bubble could be looming, however.
“The last time the Nasdaq was this high was 2000,” Mulpuru said. “[That] says it all.”
Bubble or not, it’s the $1 billion threshold that all these brands are trying to reach, an ambition perhaps fueled by the outsized success of start-ups like Uber (valued at more than $40 billion) and Lyft (valued at more than $2 billion). Venture capitalists who invest in the fashion space are no doubt hoping their holdings will ride the Uber wave.
The sites most likely to reach the $1 billion valuation level next include Moda Operandi and Rent the Runway, which each raised $60 million, in February and December, respectively. Ron Johnson led Nasty Gal’s latest $16 million round that became public last week, and Bonobos pulled in an additional $55 million in funding over the summer, bringing the totals raised for each to $65 million for Nasty Gal and upward of $127 million for the men’s wear brand.
However, Mulpuru called these skyrocketing valuations “just a number; it doesn’t really mean anything.”
Well it does: It’s going to make it a lot harder for these guys to be bought.
The more these brands raise, the harder it becomes to cash out with anything but an IPO, according to Mulpuru — unless you’re WhatsApp and get scooped up by Facebook for $19 billion. Since these companies “don’t have anything that would naturally fit into a technology titan’s business,” it’s unlikely that Farfetch, JustFab or any of their brethren will get acquired by Google or Amazon.
“When you’re that big, the list of [those who will] acquire [you] is very small. If you don’t have anything to offer those guys, your only exit is an IPO,” Mulpuru explained. “It seems like the IPO markets like these big stories that promise the next big thing, but if you don’t deliver on those numbers, you risk being the next Groupon.”
The beleaguered e-commerce site was acquired by PCH International on Tuesday, reportedly for about $15 million. This comes just less than two years after the company was valued at $1 billion, raising more than $335 million between 2011 and 2013.
The implosion of Fab notwithstanding, fashion sites continue to raise funding and boost their valuations.
Farfetch chief executive officer José Neves said the capital just raised will primarily be used to continue to expand the more than 300 boutique marketplace’s international footprint. Three localized versions of the site launched in 2014 (Russian in July, Japanese in August and Mandarin in October) and additional sites will roll out in German, Korean and Spanish in Spain and Latin America this year.
Farfetch will also open up Japan and Australia to the supply side of the business and introduce same-day delivery in multiple cities. Sales across the retailer network hit $380 million last year, more than double those of 2013. Farfetch won’t disclose revenues, but the company could have had revenues of about $95 million last year (it’s said to take a 25 percent commission from retail partners).
Following a 90 percent gain in 2014, Neves said he expects the marketplace to maintain a healthy growth rate this year.