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Gilt Groupe to Go Public, Likely in Third Quarter IPO

The New York City-based online retailer follows in the footsteps of fellow flash-sales site Zulily.

Courtesy of Gilt
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Gilt Groupe is finally committed to going public this year, after flirting with the idea several times in the past, a person familiar with the company’s plans told Re/code.

The IPO is likely to occur in the third quarter of this year, with Goldman Sachs managing the offering, the source said.

“The company is in a good place and the market is a good place,” this person said. “That doesn’t happen very often.”

Gilt spokeswoman Jennifer Miller declined to comment.

Bloomberg reported the selection of Goldman Sachs earlier this evening. Goldman Sachs is also an investor in Gilt, which has taken on more than $200 million in financing since it launched in 2007.

The online purveyor of discounted high-end clothing has toyed with the idea of an IPO a few times in the past, but began to consider it more seriously than ever in the second half of 2013. In November, I reported that the company was eyeing a late 2014 IPO as its financial performance improved under the helm of new CEO Michelle Peluso.

That same month, fellow flash sales company Zulily, which sells women’s and kids clothes, went public at a $2.6 billion valuation. The Seattle-based company now has a market cap of $4.8 billion.

Gilt was said to have generated more than $550 million in gross sales in 2012, up from $450 million in the prior year. It’s not clear how much sales it generated in 2013, but it was not profitable by generally accepted accounting principles, when I reported on the potential offering in November:

“But, like Zulily and Twitter and other fast-growing digital companies, Gilt has said it uses an often-criticized profitability metric known as adjusted EBITDA, which it says paints a clearer picture of its operating performance,” I wrote at the time. “The metric excludes stock-based compensation to employees in addition to interest, depreciation, taxes and amortization. Gilt said it will be adjusted-EBITDA positive for the 2013 calendar year. (By comparison, flash-sale site Zulily said in its IPO filling that it registered $7.5 million in adjusted EBITDA in the first six months of this year, after losing $4.4 million according to the same metric in the first six months of 2012.)”

The New York City-based company was the first big name in flash sales in the U.S, building something of a cult following around time-sensitive sales that it sent out in emails at noon every day. But after several years of high-speed growth, the company made a few bad bets on new business lines, including a full-price men’s business, Park & Bond, as well as a food category, Gilt Taste. As a result, the company cut around 10 percent of its staff in early 2012.

It has since jettisoned those businesses, as well as travel site Jetsetter, to focus most of its efforts on its core business: Selling discounted high-end apparel and accessories.

At the same time, Peluso is pushing the company to figure out new ways to serve its current brand and retail customers. One such plan entails Gilt managing warehousing and shipping logistics for a select number of other e-commerce brands. Earlier this month the company said its first client in this business is The Clymb, a flash sales company focused on outdoor sporting gear.

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