The real estate industry should keep an eye on this one.
Eyeglasses retailer Warby Parker debuted Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange at a nearly $7 billion valuation—a strong response to the company’s direct listing, which saw its value rise 30% from its reference price of $40 per share. Although the company is best known for selling its products online, a major part of its vision is expanding its physical retail presence. It added 35 stores this year alone.
“If we look at most of our large competitors, they have thousands of retail stores across the U.S.,” David Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO, said during the firm’s virtual investor day. “So that just underscores the massive opportunity we have.”
Founded 11 years ago, Warby Parker was a pioneer of the direct-to-consumer online business model. By avoiding department stores, the company’s leadership said, it could offer quality frames at lower prices.
It raised some eyebrows, then, when Warby Parker revealed that 65% of its $370 million in 2019 revenue came from in-store sales, according to the S-1 filing the company made in August with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the first regulatory step in going public.
Online sales brought in the majority of Warby Parker’s revenue last year. Its stores were closed for two months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, then had limited capacity for the rest of the year. The company said in the filing that it saw a shift “back toward pre-Covid” levels in the first half of this year.
Warby Parker opened its first retail store in 2013 near its headquarters in New York's SoHo. It had 142 stores total as of June 30. A dozen of those are in New York. California is its largest physical retail market, with 21 locations.