October 8, 2013, 1:55 PM

Flash-sale e-retailer zulily files for an IPO

The web-only merchant of children’s apparel and other items expects to raise $100 million.

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Zulily Inc., a members-only e-retailer of baby and mom products, filed for an initial public offering of stock today and says it expects to raise up to $100 million.

The retailer says sales have been growing rapidly since its founding in January 2010. In an S-1 document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the merchant publicly disclosed its online sales figures and other key operating metrics for the first time. The e-retailer brought in $331.2 million in online sales in 2012, up 132.4% from $142.5 million.

In addition, zulily, No. 77 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says it has lost money in each full year since its founding—$6.2 million in 2010, $11.5 million in 2011 and $10.6 million in 2012—but posted a profit for the first time in the first half of 2013. For the first two quarters of this year, zulily reported net income of $2.4 million, according to the filing.

As of June 30, 2013, zulily also reported:

    • Online sales of $272.0 million for the first two quarters of the year, up 114.2% compared with $127.0 million in the first half of 2012.
    • Two million active customers, or those who have purchased at least once in the last year, an increase of 67% from 1.2 million active customers at the end of the first half of last year.
    • $214 of revenue per active customer, a 10.9% increase from $193 of revenue per active customer last year.
    • 82.9% of U.S. orders were from repeat customers, up from 79.1%.
    • Average order value was $53.23, up 2.0% from $52.20 in the first half of last year.

Mobile commerce revenue is also on the rise at zulily. In the second quarter of 2013, approximately 42% of U.S. orders were placed from a mobile device, up from 39% in the first quarter of 2013 and 31% in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Much of the merchant’s success thus far has come from its custom-built approach to many aspects of online retailing, including web site infrastructure, personalized customer data and order management capabilities, zulily says.  “Our technology is built to handle the significant spikes in site traffic and transactions which frequently occur when we launch our events each day,” the filing reads. “In order to enhance relevance for our customers, we have developed extensive data collection and analytics capabilities which allow us to anticipate the shopping preferences of our customers and then personalize their site experience. Our technology platform is also designed to meet the rapid order fulfillment needs that are unique to our flash sales model.”

Other flash-sale merchants have had mixed results in recent months. Totsy.com, one of zulily’s flash-sale competitors in the mom and baby products category, laid off employees and sold its assets to Modnique.com in June of this year. Fab.com, a fast-growing retailer of design-type products, is laying off more than 200 employees this year as it abandons the model of offering discounted products for a limited time in favor of a more traditional approach to e-commerce.  And flash-sale e-retailer and social shopping merchant Sneakpeeq Inc. has been shut down since August.

On the other hand, NoMoreRack.com Inc., which offers limited-time sales of discounted products grew sales from $8.9 million in 2011 to $100 million in 2012—a 1024% increase. And Groupon Goods, the flash sale e-commerce arm of Groupon Inc., grew its online sales 2086% last year to $454.7 million.

Groupon is No. 65 in Top 500 Guide, Fab No. 150, NoMoreRack No. 202 and Totsy No. 457. Sneakpeeq is No. 508 in the Second 500 Guide.

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