Allbirds’s I.P.O. filing shows losses but grand ambitions for its sustainable shoes.
Allbirds, the maker of wool sneakers, offered a long-awaited peek at its earnings when its filing for an initial public offering was made public on Tuesday, revealing strong digital sales in 2020 despite an annual loss.
The company, which was valued at around $1.7 billion in 2020, brought in about $219 million in revenue last year, with almost 90 percent of that coming from digital sales, according to the filing. But the company, which filed confidentially for an I.P.O. this summer, lost money for the past two years, and it expects losses to continue.
Allbirds, which is based in San Francisco and was founded in 2015, is often compared to other venture-backed consumer companies like Warby Parker and Glossier, which also built cult followings around one or a handful of products sold online before expanding into physical retail. They are often held up as examples of a new type of retail model in the e-commerce age.
More recently, Allbirds has moved beyond casual shoes and into performance running shoes and clothing.
The company has grand ambitions despite its relatively small sales compared with athletic apparel behemoths. It is betting that it will expand rapidly through hundreds of new stores and by appealing to a new generation of consumers who are concerned about climate change and are shifting their purchasing habits accordingly.
Allbirds said in its filing that a pair of its shoes had a carbon footprint that was roughly 30 percent less on average than its estimated carbon footprint for a standard pair of sneakers, citing its use of renewable, natural materials and its manufacturing process.
It is using old-fashioned retailing tactics to accelerate its growth. The company said that although its stores were disrupted by the pandemic, it had “just scratched the surface of our store potential” with 27 locations as of June 30, and that it had also recently expanded into television advertising.
Allbirds’s wool sneakers became a hit product after appearing on the feet of Silicon Valley luminaries including Larry Page, the Google co-founder, and venture capitalists like Mary Meeker. The company was founded by Tim Brown, a former soccer player in New Zealand, and Joey Zwillinger, a former clean-tech entrepreneur. After Mr. Brown secured a research grant from New Zealand’s wool industry and started a Kickstarter campaign to make wool shoes, the two were introduced by their wives, who were roommates at Dartmouth College.
The company is a B Corp, a status certified by a nonprofit organization called the B Lab for companies that commit to uphold high social and environmental standards. Other prominent B Corp companies include Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia.
Allbirds said in the filing that it planned to complete the first “Sustainable Public Equity Offering,” or SPO, saying that it “is an expression of our belief and commitment that our environmental credentials are not in conflict with phenomenal financial outcomes.”
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