After confidentially filing to go public in July, online styling service Stitch Fix officially filed for its initial public offering on Thursday.
The filing marks one of the biggest e-commerce IPOs of the year, and the company’s shared revenue and active member figures have caused a splash: In 2015, Stitch Fix reported $332 million in revenue. That jumped 113 percent in 2016, to $730 million. This year, revenue is projected to reach $997 million. Active members, meanwhile, hit 2.2 million in July of this year, up 31 percent from the year before. Axios projects the company’s valuation to be $2 billion.
Here’s what else Stitch Fix is sharing in its S-1 filing, and what’s written between the lines.
Stitch Fix wants to be the anti-Amazon of e-commerce.
What they said: “The first wave of e-commerce companies prioritized low price and fast delivery. This transaction-focused model is well-suited for commoditized products. … E-commerce companies also lack the critical personal touch points necessary to help consumers find what they love, further depersonalizing the shopping experience.”
Translation: Amazon who? Stitch Fix believes its ability to get to know a customer’s taste and style over the course of a membership, using a combination of human stylists and data algorithms, give it the edge needed to not be swallowed up by Amazon. It’s an especially barbed point, considering Amazon launched Prime Wardrobe earlier this year, a subscription box that lets customers try items at home, only paying for what they want — a program that mirrors Stitch Fix’s business model. According to Stitch Fix, “filters are poor tools when it comes to finding items that fit one’s style, figure and occasion.”
Customers willingly offer up their information to Stitch Fix, and that’s rare.
What they said: “The vast majority of our client data is provided directly and explicitly by the client, rather than inferred, scraped or obtained from other sources. … On average, each client directly provides us with over 85 meaningful data points through his or her style profile … Historically, over 85 percent of our shipments have resulted in direct client feedback.”
Translation: Every retailer has recognized the importance of customer data, but not many can claim that their customers are willingly serving up information about themselves on a regular basis. Stitch Fix chief algorithms officer Eric Colson, who previously worked at Netflix, previously told Glossy that the biggest difference between the two companies is that at Stitch Fix, customers want to work with the retailer to share information in order to get a better experience out of it. Netflix, along with other retailers, relies on what can be inferred by customer’s online behavior. If personalization sets apart retailers today, Stitch Fix is ahead of the pack.
For brands, Stitch Fix is the antidote to the retail promotion plague.
What they said: “Unlike many sales channels, we do not rely on discounts or promotions. Further, we provide our brand partners with insights based on client feedback that help our brand partners improve and evolve their merchandise to better meet consumer demand.”
Translation: Wholesale brands that traditionally sell to department stores as their primary retail partners are struggling, thanks in part to a heavy promotional cycle that’s caused brands like Michael Kors and Coach to pull back. Amazon, meanwhile, is a notorious data hog, sharing limited information around brands’ customers with the ones who sell through the site. Come to Stitch Fix, Stitch Fix says, where there are no 50-percent-off sales, and we’ll feed you customer data on a spoon.
Personalized styling gets better over time, and that’s a problem.
What they said: “Moreover, new clients may not purchase from us as frequently or spend as much with us as existing clients, and the revenue generated from new clients may not be as high as the revenue generated from our existing clients.”
Translation: Stitch Fix’s greatest value proposition is its use of data science and human stylists to send customers the products they would be most likely to buy. However, this is hard to achieve with new customers who haven’t spent a lot of time trying and reviewing items with Stitch Fix. While the company reports a repeat rate of 86 percent, it’s not a great sign that its biggest strengths only show through for customers willing to wait out a rough patch.
Growth is slowing down.
What they said: “Our success depends on our ability to attract new clients in a cost-effective manner. To expand our client base, we must appeal to and acquire clients who have historically used other means to purchase apparel, shoes and accessories, such as traditional brick-and-mortar apparel retailers or the websites of our competitors.”
Translation: To live up to its nearly $2 billion valuation, Stitch Fix needs to keep growing its active member base, and growth rates have slowed. It had a big year of growth in 2016, with revenue shooting from $343 million to $730 million, and active members increasing from 867,000 to 1.7 million. But that rate was reduced in 2017, with revenue projected to hit $997 million and users to reach 2.2 million. How many more Stitch Fixers are left out there? To ramp up growth, Stitch Fix laid out plans to pull the trigger on awareness-raising initiatives like paid referrals, affiliate programs, TV ads, search campaigns and more. And it’s going to get expensive.
Don’t hold your breath on a Stitch Fix store.
What they said: Nothing.
Translation: Stitch Fix isn’t entertaining the idea for a physical retail expansion, at least not now. Unlike other pure-play retailers and brands that have shifted into brick-and-mortar, including fellow subscription company Birchbox, Stitch Fix is keeping its business fully online.