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Wayfair shares soar on first day of public trading

Wayfair co-chairman and co-founder Steve Conine rang a ceremonial bell in front of fellow co-chairman and co-founder Niraj Shah to mark the company's IPO on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

Investors embraced shares of Wayfair Inc. in their first day of public trading, driving the stock of the Boston online furniture and home goods retailer up more than 30 percent Thursday.

Wayfair raised $319 million Wednesday evening when underwriters priced shares in its initial public offering at $29 each, above initial estimates. The stock jumped as soon as it began trading publicly Thursday and closed at $37.72, giving the company a total market value of $3.1 billion by the end of the day.

“It’s a super-exciting milestone for the company,” said Niraj Shah, chief executive of Wayfair, who was joined by 90 company employees to ring the bell and open the markets in New York. “Online sales are doing really well, and people are realizing that the home goods market, furniture and décor, can be a really good category.”


Shah and co-chairman Steve Conine each own more than 20 million shares of the company. Three venture capital firms based in Boston — Battery Ventures, Great Hill Partners, and HarbourVest Partners — are also significant shareholders.

Wayfair was founded more than a decade ago by Shah and Conine, both Cornell graduates. The partners started small and created a series of niche home goods websites with simple names such as racksandstands.com and strollers.com under the umbrella of parent company CSN Stores. The company grew over time to offer about 250 individual e-commerce sites. It began aggregating all of its products under Wayfair.com in 2011.

Now Wayfair sells more than 7 million household items from 12,000 brands on its namesake site, as well as Joss & Main, DwellStudio, All+Modern, and Birch Lane.

Business boomed in 2013 as Wayfair’s revenue soared by 50 percent to $915 million. The firm said it had 2.1 million customers, up 800,000 from 2012.

Wayfair expects online sales of furniture and home goods to continue to grow.


The US furniture and home decor markets, which include brick and mortar and e-commerce firms, reached $233 billion in 2013 and will rise to nearly $300 billion by 2023, Wayfair said in regulatory filings.

“It’s not unexpected that the stock is doing so well,” said Josef Schuster, of IPOX Schuster LLC. in Chicago. “Investors like it because they have good experiences with home furnishings.”

Schuster likened the success of the Wayfair IPO to Restoration Hardware’s debut in 2012. That stock closed at $31.10 on it’s first day, up 30 percent from an IPO price of $24. Now shares have tripled to more than $79.

Wayfair’s business model is particularly attractive because the company acts as a middleman between consumers and suppliers, analysts say. Customers pay for the products first, and then Wayfair pays and orders the goods from its suppliers. Orders are often shipped direct from the 7,000 suppliers and never enter the Wayfair warehouses, which means the company is rarely stuck with excess inventory.

Schuster said the attention the IPO generates will help Wayfair become more of a household name to consumers.

“That’s the hidden benefit of having a positive opening on the stock market,” he said. “People are watching, and some are going to look at the site right away.”

Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @TarynLuna.