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Warby Parker files for direct listing, cites screen fatigue as growth factor

Warby Parker eyewear is displayed at a company retail store
Warby Parker, which started as an online retailer before opening physical stores, could be valued at $3 billion in a direct stock listing.
(Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)

Warby Parker Inc., the eyewear retailer, filed to go public in a direct listing, opening its books for the first time and disclosing a 53% jump in revenue this year.

The company reported in a filing Tuesday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had a net loss of $7.3 million on revenue of $271 million in the first six months of the year. That compared with a net loss of $10 million on revenue of $177 million during the same period in 2020.

The filing confirms Warby Parker’s statement in June that it planned a public listing of its stock, indicating it would bypass a traditional initial public offering. The company won’t raise any proceeds through the listing, in which investors will be allowed to sell their shares on the open market.

The eyewear maker, which got its start as a digital platform and has been expanding its offline footprint, could be valued at $3 billion in the listing, Bloomberg News has reported.

E-commerce accounted for only 8% of eyewear sales in the U.S. last year, while the increasing use of smartphones, tablets and computers is contributing to customer growth within the market, Warby Parker said in its filing. Some 76% of adults in the U.S. now use some form of vision correction, according to statistics cited by the company.

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Direct listings were pioneered by Spotify Technology in 2018 and Slack Technologies Inc. the following year. In 2020, Palantir Technologies Inc. and Asana Inc. also went public this way.

While traditional IPOs remain a far more common route to public markets, Warby Parker’s filing follows a cluster of direct listings this year. Most recently, ZipRecruiter Inc.’s shares began trading in May. Its trading debut followed those of website-hosting service Squarespace Inc., cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase Global Inc. and online game maker Roblox Corp.

Warby Parker also joins a class of direct-to-consumer companies in tapping the capital market amid record stock gains. The public equity market has grabbed the limelight from strategic and financial buyers this year, building a long pipeline of public listing candidates. That includes companies going public through mergers with blank-check companies.

Wall Street is enticing investors with SPACs — funds that won’t say what they’re buying.

The 11-year-old company counts Tiger Global Management, T. Rowe Price, General Catalyst, D1 Capital Partners and Durable Capital among its largest investors, according to its filing. It raised $120 million last August through a series G funding round, giving it a valuation of $3 billion, according to data provider PitchBook. Warby Parker has raised a total of more than $536 million as a private company.

Shares of the company traded privately in April at $24.53 apiece, according to the filing. Before the stock begins trading, the New York Stock Exchange will issue a so-called reference price for the shares, though shares won’t be sold at that price as they would in a traditional IPO.

While banks don’t underwrite shares in a direct listing as they do in an IPO, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley and Allen & Co. are advising Warby Parker on the listing. The company plans for its shares to trade under the symbol WRBY.

Bloomberg writer Jordyn Holman contributed to this report.


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