Rent the Runway started trading on public markets Wednesday, testing investor appetite for its apparel rental model in the wake of a brutal year.
The listing represents a milestone for the venture capital-backed company, which was founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Carter Fleiss. The stock began trading above its IPO price of $21, but its gains fizzled during the day and it closed at $19.29, down about 8%.
Rent the Runway was built on the idea of renting out formal dresses for special occasions like weddings. The company has since expanded beyond weekend dress rentals, aiming to offer people a “closet in the cloud” through subscriptions. Rent the Runway has focused on getting subscribers to pay a monthly fee to access a wide range of apparel, jewelry and bags. Subscribers can swap in their picks several times a month.
In its IPO filing, Rent the Runway pointed to a confluence of factors for its continued growth, including a “shift from ownership to access” as typified by the popularity of companies like Netflix and Airbnb, increased interest in sustainability and more working women, who tend to spend more on workwear than their male counterparts.
The company priced the offering at $21 a share, the high end of the $18-to-$21 range the company had marketed. It also expanded the offering to 17 million shares, up from the 15 million originally planned. It plans to use the proceeds to repay debt and fund the company’s expansion.
Still, the pandemic battered the company, which is still trying to regain the momentum that it had in 2019. Rent the Runway has been optimistic about rebounding this year, but the filing shows how bad the damage was: The company ended last year with 54,797 active subscribers and $157.5 million in revenue, down from 133,572 active subscribers and $256.9 million in revenue in 2019. The active subscriber count was 111,732 as of Sept. 30.