Stock of online marketplace Etsy surges in trading debut

April 16, 2015 By Mae Anderson Associated Press
Etsy, a DUMBO-based company, celebrated its IPO on the Nasdaq stock exchange with an Opening Bell Ceremony on Thursday. Photo: Nasdaq, courtesy of Etsy
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The place where you can buy handmade dresses and crocheted dog costumes has a new hot seller: its own stock.

Shares of arts and crafts retailer Etsy, which is based in DUMBO, surged in opening trading on the Nasdaq Thursday. After pricing at $16 late Wednesday the stock opened at nearly double that, and hit a high of $35.73 in morning trading. The company is valued at $3.33 billion, based on afternoon trading just shy of $30.

The healthy stock surge shows that Wall Street has a big appetite for a well-known retail brand, even one that doesn’t yet make a profit. Thursday was one of the biggest days for initial public offerings so far this year, with party-store operator Party City and electronic trading firm Virtu Financial also making big debuts.

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“It’s been a very slow IPO market so far this year and investors have been on the sideline waiting for a new name, especially a new name that’s familiar,” said Sam Hamadeh, CEO of research firm Privco.

In light of Etsy’s initial public offering (IPO) on the Nasdaq MarketSite, Etsy showcased its sellers at an Etsy Market set up in Times Square on Thursday. The market followed an Opening Bell Ceremony with Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson and CFO Kristina Salen.

Founded in 2005, Etsy sells anything from a $110,000 antique desk from the 1800s to a $20 handmade antler pendant and everything in between. In 10 years it’s grown from a scrappy startup offering craftspeople a way to sell necklaces and needlepoint online to a marketplace of 54 million members that generated $1.93 billion in sales in 2014.

While it doesn’t make a profit — it reported a loss of $15.2 million in 2014 — it has a very loyal customer base and room for revenue growth. The company says 78 percent of people who bought items on the site in 2014 were return customers.

And although it has a reputation for being a grassroots site, its revenue model is becoming more like Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse. In addition to taking a small percentage of each transaction made on Etsy, it is increasingly offering services like marketing and payment processing to its sellers. About 42 percent of its revenue in 2014 came from services.

“We think that it’s a very interesting company and investors are going to like the growth they see,” said Kathleen Smith, IPO exchange-traded fund manager at IPO research firm Renaissance Capital.

Etsy is a B Corporation, a for-profit company with a stated social mission certified by a nonprofit organization called B Lab. That could make for a tricky balancing act of keeping its socially conscious ethos alive while satisfying stockholder demands. But it could help that some shareholders will be Etsy sellers themselves — Etsy planned for 5 percent of the shares sold to be set aside for individual investors, including people who use its site. And it is using $300,000 of the proceeds from the debut to fund Etsy.org, a website established to promote entrepreneurship for women in disadvantaged communities.

One stock buyer was Juan Donado from Brooklyn, an Etsy seller who was among those the company invited to sell their wares in a popup market in Times Square Thursday. Donado is from Colombia, and he and his wife Anna currently employ four people in Bogota to make hand-painted, fair trade wooden figures for toys, wedding cake toppers and other uses.

They have been Etsy sellers since 2008 and the Etsy store has been their main source of income since 2011. Donada said he has never bought stock before but researched IPOs thoroughly before taking the plunge. He bought 160 Etsy shares on the morning of the IPO.

“Chad (Dickerson, Etsy’s CEO) was talking about how he wants to lift up sellers,” he said when asked what he likes about Etsy that’s different from other companies. “We want to do the same thing. … The more work we get, the more we can pass on to (his employees).”

New York-based Etsy is trading on the Nasdaq under the “ETSY” ticker.


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