First ‘Flash Sales’ Site To Go Public Is Zulily

Zulily filed for an initial public offering Tuesday, putting the company on course to be the first so-called flash sales Web site to list its shares.

Zulily said it plans to raise as much as $100 million in an IPO underwritten by banks including Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. The ticker will be ZU, and the stock will trade on Nasdaq.

The company reported revenue of $272 million in the first half of 2013, more than double the $127 million it generated in the same period a year earlier. The company also generated a small profit -- net income of $2.4 million -- in the latest six-month period vs. a net loss of more than $6 million a year earlier.

Flash sales sites typically offer a limited supply of luxury products at big discounts through online sales events that last for a short time each day.

After the 2008 financial crisis, a crop of these businesses, including Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and HauteLook, sprouted. For several years these companies looked like future IPO candidates, but they have either struggled to maintain growth and stayed private, or they have been swallowed up by larger retailers.

Zulily, which was started later in 2010 by Blue Nile executives Darrell Cavens and Mark Vadon, is one of the few flash sales operators to be growing fast enough to attract IPO investors. "There are only a handful of markets that lend themselves to flash sales and one is the moms market for kids items," said Niraj Shah, chief executive of Wayfair, an online furniture retailer.

Other markets, such as luxury fashion and design, may not be as well suited to flash sales, he added.

Indeed, Fab, which grew fast as a flash sales site for modern design items for the home, recently laid off more than 100...

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