by Scott Denne
Nabbing a valuation beyond its last venture round will be challenging for Farfetch, the latest consumer company to take a step toward the public markets by unveiling its IPO prospectus. As it bids to join the NYSE, Portugal’s Farfetch flaunts enviable growth and a favorable macroclimate, although its valuation will need a substantial premium above its peer group to have an up-round.
In operating an online marketplace for fashion brands and luxury boutiques, Farfetch generated $481m in trailing revenue. The company’s last venture round valued it north of $2bn, or 5x that amount – a steep hill for an e-commerce vendor, considering that such outlets rarely fetch above 2x from Wall Street. Online furniture seller Wayfair, for example, trades at about 2x – Groupon and JD.com trade below 1x.
Yet Farfetch has several factors working in its favor. For one, there’s a complementary economic environment. According to 451 Research’s most recent VoCUL: Consumer Spending report, in each of the past six months, over 30% of consumers have said they plan to spend more in the next 90 days. And 451 Research’s forthcoming Global Unified Commerce Forecast expects more of that spending to flow online (16% CAGR through 2022) than offline (2% CAGR). (We’ll be hosting a webinar to preview that report in September, readers can sign up here.)
Also, digital retailers specializing in clothing and fashion tend to be valued higher – by both acquirers and public investors – than the broader e-commerce category. According to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, online retailers sold in the past 48 months fetched a median 1.1x trailing revenue. In recent sales of fashion-related sites, valuations have come in higher. Younique hit 2.5x in its $600m sale to Coty last year and Farfetch’s more mature rival, YOOX Net-A-Porter, landed 1.7x in its January sale to Richemont.
On the public markets, Stitch Fix, a personalized fashion retailer that went public last year, trades just above 3x. Farfetch would likely pass that marker – its topline expanded 55% compared with 33% for Stitch Fix and it has gross margins barely above 50%, whereas Stitch Fix is closer to 40%. Still, to match its private valuation, the would-be public company would need two full turns above Stitch Fix. That may not be, well, farfetched, but it’s a stretch.