retail watch | May 3, 2024 |
Wayfair cuts its losses and Wall Street cheers

Wayfair, in its latest financial results this week, continues to do better (or at least less badly).

The home furnishings e-commerce giant still lost money and had lower sales than a year ago, but the declines were milder than they had been, and better than expert forecasts—seemingly more important to Wall Street, which operates on its own logic.

For Wayfair, it’s a continuing process of digging out from the post-pandemic hole it found itself in after a brief shining moment during Covid when it was the darling of shoppers trapped at home and spending like drunken decorators. Ever since, its numbers have been weaker, but for this most recent quarter they were, well, less weak.

Wayfair was ecstatic about its performance. “The first quarter ended on an upswing,” said Niraj Shah, the company’s CEO, co-founder and co-chairman. “Our revenue was down just under 2 percent year-over-year for Q1, which marks our sixth straight quarter of share gain. Shoppers are increasingly choosing Wayfair, with year-over-year active customer growth once again positive and accelerating compared to last quarter.”

Wall Street was every bit as hyped as Shah, trading the company’s stock up about 8.5 percent on Thursday to $58.64 a share. That’s the highest it’s been in weeks, and even TV stock guru Jim Cramer jumped on the Wayfair bandwagon: “Where do you buy when you are strapped? You don’t go to RH. You go to [Wayfair].”

For the quarter, active customers totaled 22.3 million, up 2.8 percent year over year. Sales were off about 1 percent for the period, a smaller decline than the previous quarter, and Wayfair’s losses totaled $248 million versus $355 million a year ago, driven by a 13 percent cut in its workforce since the start of the year. Both top line and bottom line results beat Wall Street consensus analyst forecasts.

Even with those wins, some of Wayfair’s results had to be viewed as disappointing—though less so in the context of the overall slowdown in the broader home furnishings space. Net revenue per active customer, orders delivered during the quarter and average order size were all off slightly.

These results come in the context of some new initiatives for Wayfair. Earlier this spring, it launched a new marketing campaign around the “Welcome to the Wayborhood,” and later this month it will open its first true Wayfair-branded store outside of Chicago—a 150,000-square-foot location that should say a lot about how the company expects to go forward with its physical retailing plans.

Each quarter, Wayfair edges closer and closer to making money, something it only achieved during the pandemic years. One can only imagine what the company and the stock market will do if it gets back in the black.


Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.

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