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Wayfair Earnings: Accelerating Growth Is on the Table

By Rick Munarriz - Feb 25, 2016 at 12:09PM

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The online furniture retailer was one of last year's hottest stocks, and it builds on that with a strong fourth quarter.

Image source: Wayfair.   

Buying furniture online -- something that didn't seem feasible during the early dot-com days given the hefty fulfillment costs and the instinctive nature of checking pieces out in physical showrooms -- keeps growing in popularity. Online furniture retailer Wayfair (W 3.42%) posted accelerating top-line growth and improving fundamentals in Thursday morning's earnings report.

Revenue came in at $739.8 million for the fourth quarter, 81% ahead of the prior year's results. The gain came entirely from a 98% surge in its direct retail revenue, essentially online sales generated through Wayfair's namesake sites and its four other online brands. Direct retail makes up 93% of its revenue, so naturally it's going to be the key driver here. 

Wayfair did post another loss for the period -- that's just where the dot-com darling is at this phase of its growth cycle -- but it did post positive adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow for the holiday quarter. 

The market liked the report. Wayfair stock opened higher on Thursday following the report. It's just more validation for an IPO that didn't light up the market right away. 

Wayfair hit the market in late 2014 priced at $29 a share. It opened at $36, trading as high as $39.43 on tis first day on the market, but the buzz didn't last. The stock would go on to shed nearly half of its peak value by the end of the year, closing out 2014 as a busted IPO at just $19.85. 

Last year was a different story. The stock soared 140% in an otherwise bland year for growth stocks, fueled by its success in resonating with today's furniture and home goods shoppers. Wayfair managed to bump its guidance higher every single quarter as the year played out, and Wall Street loves to see momentum pointing in that direction. 

Wayfair has succeeded by offering free shipping on its massive catalog, something that it naturally works into a product's selling prices, but consumers don't seem to mind. When your average order value is $222 -- up 9% since the 2014 holiday quarter -- it's a pretty seamless trick. Wayfair's fan base is growing. It reached 5.4 million active customers by the end of last year, 67% ahead of where it was a year earlier. Repeat customers are also placing more orders, an encouraging sign for those wondering if Wayfair's big-ticket purchases are one-off affairs.

It may never be able to woo folks that prefer to visit local showrooms to test out sofa recliners or visualize if a pub-height table is the right fit for a studio apartment, but it's doing a great job reaching a smart and affluent target audience. The typical Wayfair customer is a middle-aged woman with annual household income of $60,000 to $175,000. More than two-thirds of its customers happen to be female, and now that more than a third of its orders are coming from mobile devices, it's not as if its customers seem to need the super-sized showroom experience. As long as Wayfair keeps impressing with its torrid growth, it seems as if the market will keep regretting selling off the stock in late 2014 -- and focusing on its promising future.

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