Stock Groups

Warby Parker plans to take on glasses giant EssilorLuxottica


A employee dusts a show of Ray-Ban sun shades, manufactured by EssilorLuxottica, in a retailer in Barcelona, Spain, on June 30, 2021.

Bloomberg | Getty Pictures

Eyewear firm Warby Parker is at an inflection level in its 12-year historical past. 

The agency has been credited with being a pacesetter in direct-to-consumer, a mannequin the place companies reduce out middlemen to promote by way of their very own shops, and it has arguably been an inspiration to different corporations corresponding to luggage-maker Away and sneaker model Allbirds.

Warby Parker made its identify by promoting glasses on-line and undercutting incumbents corresponding to Ray-Ban maker EssilorLuxottica by providing frames with a beginning value of $95 — together with lenses.

Having debuted on the inventory market by way of a direct itemizing on Sept. 29, and seeing its stock price soar that day, Warby Parker is now embarking on the subsequent leg of its journey: it’s shifting towards promoting providers in addition to glasses, co-founder and CEO Dave Gilboa advised CNBC in a telephone interview.

“We’re at this type of fascinating transition the place traditionally we have been a glasses firm and eyeglasses model and now, we’re transitioning to turning into a holistic imaginative and prescient care firm,” Gilboa mentioned. “The place, along with shopping for glasses from us … Now, an rising variety of our clients are additionally getting their eye examination and prescriptions from us,” he added.

Warby Parker’s clients spent a mean of $218 every in 2020, up from $188 in 2018, and it expects progress to come back from individuals who purchase progressive — or multifocal — lenses, eye exams and contacts, per a 2021 investor presentation. The corporate mentioned these “holistic imaginative and prescient clients” have the potential to spend $500 and up a yr after their preliminary buy, greater than double the quantity for a glasses-only shopper.

Co-CEOs, Neil Blumenthal & Dave Gilboa of Warby Parker on the NYSE, September 29, 2021.

Supply: NYSE

Bodily shops are one other alternative. At present, Warby Parker has 160 places within the U.S. and Canada, and Gilboa mentioned it has the potential to extend that quantity to 900, although he mentioned it would take some time to get there.

A giant query, nevertheless, is whether or not it may possibly tackle EssilorLuxottica, the $85 billion French-Italian large created in a 48-billion-euro merger in 2018. Warby Parker’s market cap is at the moment $3.37 billion, however some analysts suppose it may possibly compete.

“For positive,” mentioned Oliver Chen, an analyst and managing director at funding financial institution Cowen, when requested if it has an opportunity towards the European firm. “You could possibly argue that Warby Parker is a disrupter, you already know on this section, a really worthwhile section, and Warby Parker presents higher worth [than others],” he advised CNBC by telephone.

Warby Parker made income of $487 million within the 12 months to June 30, 2021, up 33% on the yr prior, and whereas it was worthwhile on an EBITDA (earnings earlier than curiosity, taxes, depreciation and amortization) foundation over that interval, making $27 million, it posted a internet lack of $53.2 million.

EssilorLuxottica’s mannequin is a multi-brand one: it producers its personal labels corresponding to Ray-Ban and operates below license for a number of the world’s largest luxurious gamers together with Chanel, Versace and Ralph Lauren. It produces round 80 million to 90 million pairs a yr in line with an organization spokesperson in an e-mail to CNBC, and it made 5.5 billion euros in income within the third quarter of 2021, promoting in North America, EMEA and Asia.

The French-Italian firm additionally runs Sunglass Hut and different shops that promote its eyewear, and owns imaginative and prescient insurance coverage corporations too, together with EyeMed, resulting in criticism by some that it is a monopoly. However for Rebecca Harwood-Lincoln, an eyewear business marketing consultant, working in numerous features of the market is “a wonderful idea.”

“They very efficiently purchased out stores, so the likes of Sunglass Hut, Lenscrafters, David Clulow … then they get computerized distribution of their merchandise and so they profit from the margins,” she advised CNBC by telephone. Final yr, the agency purchased Dutch eyewear retail GrandVision in an $8.5 billion deal.

Whereas Warby Parker sees progress coming from its home market, EssilorLuxottica identifies an getting older Asian inhabitants and a rising quantity of people that want glasses — however do not but personal them — within the likes of China and Latin America, as alternatives. Innovation-wise, the spokesperson mentioned it’s centered on Ray-Ban Stories — its sensible glasses collaboration with Fb — and Stellest, a lens that has the potential to gradual the development of short-sightedness in youngsters.

Can Warby Parker compete? “We do not spend numerous time excited about others within the area and, as a direct-to-consumer firm, we get numerous suggestions [on] what’s working effectively,” Gilboa mentioned. “We do anticipate to develop considerably sooner than the general business through the years and many years to come back … We do not actually suppose when it comes to market share or type of getting larger than the others within the class,” he added.

Mark Mahaney, a senior managing director and analyst at Evercore, says whereas Warby Parker has a “respectable” enterprise mannequin (the agency provides it a “maintain” score), gaining market share may not contact EssilorLuxottica. “How about this for enjoyable? [Warby Parker] might triple their market share, and I am undecided that Essilor would even discover.”