Why direct to consumer darlings Casper Allbirds Peloton now struggle | allsaxmusic

The direct-to-consumer boom is coming to an end.

A once-bustling group of companies, backed by billions in venture capital funding, saw a record year for IPOs in 2021. Now, three years later, most of those direct-to-consumer, or DTC, companies still struggle with profitability.

« It’s that profitability angle now that demarcates the winners in DTC from the losers, » said GlobalData Retail’s managing director, Neil Saunders. « One of the problems with a lot of direct-to-consumer companies is they’re not profitable and a number of them don’t really have a convincing pathway to profitability. And that’s when investors get very nervous, especially in the current market where capital is expensive. »

Allbirds, Warby Parker, Rent the Runway, ThredUp and others once represented a new era of retail. These digital-first, ultra-modern companies rose to prominence in the 2010s, boosted by the rising tide of social media ads and online shopping. With the cohort came a huge wave of venture capital funding, propped up by low interest rates.

In just under a decade, venture capital funding exploded, from $60 billion in 2012 to an eye-watering $643 billion in 2021. Thirty percent of that funding was funneled into retail brands, and more than $5 billion went specifically to companies that intersected e-commerce and consumer products. As the Covid-19 pandemic moved most shopping online, venture capital funds were all-in on digital native direct-to-consumer companies.

According to a CNBC analysis of 22 publicly traded DTC companies, more than half have seen a decline of 50% or more in their stock price since they went public. Notable companies in the space, such as SmileDirectClub, which went public in 2019, and Winc, a wine subscription box, have declared bankruptcy. Casper, a direct-to-consumer mattress company, announced it was going private in late 2021 after a lackluster year-and-a-half of trading. Most recently meal kit subscription service Blue Apron exited the U.S. stock market after being acquired by Wonder Group.

Now many of these so-called DTC darlings are being forced to reevaluate their business model to survive a shifting consumer landscape.

Watch the video above to find out what happened to the DTC darlings of the 2010s and how the direct-to-consumer cohort is pivoting in the new decade.

By Liam