Gilt Groupe plans a new round of financing in the first half of 2011 to expand beyond luxury apparel and travel, the top executive of the luxury e-commerce retailer told Reuters.
The financing will be in the range of $50 million to $100 million and will probably involve bringing in a new investor, Chief Executive Kevin Ryan said.
Known for its online flash sales of women's designer apparel, Gilt moved into high-end men's and children's apparel and accessories, designer home goods and luxury travel packages over the past two years.
The invitation-only shopping site, which will generate about $500 million of gross revenue for calendar 2010, was formed in 2007 and has built a cult-like following among shoppers lured by $3,000 dresses that sell for a few hundred dollars or less on Gilt.
The company was founded by Ryan, an Internet entrepreneur who ran online ad agency DoubleClick; Alexis Maybank, a former eBay executive who helped launch the online auction site's cars business; and Alexandra Wilson, an executive at Bulgari and Louis Vuitton.
Current investors include Matrix Partners and General Atlantic. About $90 million of equity has been raised to date, Ryan said.
The fresh round of financing will go toward launching new businesses. Gilt is considering moving into gourmet food sales next year and has tested new markets, such as cars, for ideas.
In April, Gilt waded into the red hot local group-buying sector, popularized by companies like Groupon. A recent email offered discounts of up to 80 percent for treatments with New York-based Dr. Shirley Madhere, the doctor behind plastic surgery's holistic turn.
Gilt will also start selling men's fashion at full price next year and plans to announce at least one more full-price store in 2011.
Ryan said the company will continue to pursue acquisitions and pay for them with stock. In October the company made its first acquisition, buying San Francisco-based luxury deals site Bergine for an undisclosed amount.
Over the next year I would not be surprised if we do one or two smaller acquisitions either for a new vertical, or it could be in another country that brings more to the table for us, Ryan said.
Meanwhile, the retailer also plans to begin shipping some items internationally.
Its Jetsetter division, which provides exclusive vacation deals to international clients, makes up 10 percent of the business. We think there is a lot of potential there, Ryan said.
As the company's controlling shareholder, Ryan said he has felt no pressure to sell in the foreseeable future.
Ryan said an initial public offering currently looks more likely. Next summer I would start thinking about whether we want to put ourselves in a position in 2012, Ryan said.
E-commerce has been the bright spot in the volatile world of retail this year, as high unemployment and a still-shaky economy reduce consumers' desire to head to stores and shop.
Luxury online sites like Gilt Groupe have managed to keep their customers clicking due to their flash sales -- sales that offer a for a limited time -- that build on excitement and the perception of exclusivity.
Still, there are constraints to the e-commerce retail model. Over time it certainly won't be as viral, Wedbush Morgan analyst Kerry Rice said. To remain sustainable, Rice said these companies need to invest more in the business.
For now, Gilt appears to be well ahead of its peers. Rue La La, its next competitor, is expected to generate revenue of $221 million in 2010, increasing to roughly $270 million for 2011, said Rice.
Any competitors we have in the space like Rue La La or Haute Look are not as high-end as we are, but they are also smaller, Ryan said.
Gilt's luxury discount sales thrived during the downturn, and Ryan said it was his expectation that the business will do as well as the economy improves.
It is a playbook out of Amazon in some ways from 10 years ago, Ryan said. The one thing we have done better than most players is expand our product line, and we will continue to do that as we see great opportunities out there.
(Additional reporting by Alexandria Sage in San Francisco; Editing by Kenneth Li and Steve Orlofsky)