April 21, 2021 at 04:00PM

After six separate rounds of fundraising over the past 10 years, the trendy online and retail eyewear chain Warby Parker is reportedly preparing to go public.

According to a Bloomberg report citing people familiar with the discussions, the New York-based company could launch its initial public offering (IPO) this year, in a deal that would presumably be worth more than the $3 billion valuation it set eight months ago in its last capital raising effort.

Since then, with the tailwind of the pandemic-related shift toward online transactions, Warby Parker has continued its ascent and expansion and now operates 139 retail location in 33 states as well as a handful of stores in Canada.

A D2C Pioneer

In 10 years, Warby Parker has gone from a concept to a bit of a retailing icon for its pioneering work to improve the art of direct-to-consumer (D2C) selling — in a complicated category that has built-in legal and medical protections that often require patients to see a licensed eye care professional in person and get a prescription.

From the outset, the company’s “Try 5 For Free” program — which still exists today — has allowed customers to try on five different pairs of glasses that are shipped to their home, and keep only the ones they like.

In addition, the company has also been a disruptive force on both the style and pricing fronts as it has routinely sold fashionable frames for $100 that are a fraction of the cost of big name branded designer frames.

Part of its growth and customer retention effort has seen the rollout and expansion of its physical store footprint, as well as an ongoing embrace of digital technology, such as a virtual try-on feature that allows customers to check out how they look in a certain style or shade of specs.

The company has also built a reputation as a champion of progressive causes, racial inclusion and charitable giving, as its popular “Buy A Pair, Give A Pair” program has brought free glasses to underserved individuals in 50 countries.

Warby Parker’s upward trajectory has also been aided by a steady expansion of its product line to include eyewear for kids, prescription sunglasses and contact lenses. 

The Last Funding Round

When Warby Parker announced that it had raised $245 million last August via its “Series F” — or its sixth — round of fundraising, it gave the retailer an implied valuation of $3 billion.

At this point, the company’s IPO investigation is characterized as preliminary, with Warby essentially shopping the street for input from banks to potentially underwrite a deal, while also not ruling out other options such as issuing debt.

A company spokesperson told Bloomberg that Warby Parker’s deliberations were at an early stage and that it was exploring various financing opportunities that would facilitate the company’s expansion while honoring its commitment to sustainable growth.

Eyewear Retailer Warby Parker Mulls IPO After 10 Years Of Innovation And Growth …

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