Direct-to-Consumer Retail Gets Big Funding

Away, Hims & Parachute All Get Growth Capital

This week was a big financing week for startups. In addition to the Pillpack purchase noted above, there was a ton of action in the direct-to-consumer consumer products space that should definitely have incumbents concerned.

Away, the NY-based “thoughtful” startup that makes travel products that “solve real travel problems” raised $50mm in fresh Series C funding from prior investors Forerunner Ventures, Global Founders Capital and Comcast Ventures. The company intends to use the funds to tap into global markets, expand its product line and continue its clicks-to-bricks initiative with six new retail stores in the second half of 2018. The company recently moved its headquarters within New York City in part thanks to a $4mm Empire State Development performance-based tax credit through the Excelsior Jobs Program.

Hims, the one-year old SF-based company that sells men’s prescription hair and sex products, raised $50mm in Series B-2 funding at a $400mm post-money valuation. Investors include IVP, Founders Fund, Cavu Venture Partners, Thrive Capital, Redpoint Ventures, Forerunner Ventures (notice a pattern here?), and SV Angel.

Earlier this year, beauty products maker Glossier raised $52mm in Series C funding (and subsequently added Katrina Lake from Stitch Fix to its board of directors), shaving company Harry’s raised $112mm in Series D funding, and athleisure brand Outdoor Voices raised $32mm.

But, wait. There’s more: here, there are a variety of startups going after your kitchenware and your bed. Parachute announced this week that it raised $30 million in Series C funding led by H.I.G. Growth Partners. Other investors include Upfront Ventures, Susa Ventures, Suffolk Equity, JAWS Ventures, Grace Beauty Capital and Daher Capital. With three stores currently, the company intends to take the funding to, like Away, expand its clicks-to-bricks plan with 20 more locations in the next 2 years.

Meanwhile, mattress e-tailer Purple is (strangely) doubling-down on its relationship with Steinhoff-owned Mattress Firm, the struggling bed B&M retailer. The tie-up now includes Mattress Firm locations in Sacramento, Austin, DC, Chicago and SF. We hope Purple has baked in bankruptcy protections into its deal agreements so that there’s not question as to ownership.

If you don’t think all of this has incumbent CPG executives worried, you’re not paying close enough attention.

Not to mention the private equity bros:

More from Ryan Caldbeck’s interesting thread here.

Slight tangent: note that nowhere is there any mention of disruption from consumer product subscription boxes.

GNC Holdings Inc. Kicks the Can

The Rise of DTC Supplements Constitutes a Threat to GNC

Speaking of a concessions business, GNC Holdings Inc. ($GNC) is a big proponent (have you been to Rite-Aid lately?) and look how well…oh, wait…nevermind.

When we last wrote about GNC back in February, the company had reported surprising earnings, margins and free cash flow; it also paid down its revolving credit facility and seemed on the verge of amending and extending its term loan. It had also just received a cash infusion commitment from a Chinese investment fund in exchange for 40% of the company. Subsequently, the company was able to amend and extend the term loan to 2021. Concurrently, the company entered into a new $100 million asset-backed loan due August 2022 and engaged in certain other capital structure machinations to obtain $275 million of asset-backed “first in, last out” term loans due December 2022. Textbook. Kicking. The. Can. Which, of course, helped the company avoid Vitamin World’s bankrupt fate. 👊 Goldman Sachs!

Meanwhile, this is what the stock looks like:

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Pretty ugly. And it may get worse when you factor in what’s going on in the world of supplements, generally. What’s going on, you ask? A sh*t ton of venture capital investment, corporate cash infusion and growth.

Earlier in March, a company called Ancient Nutrition, producer of bone broth protein and collagen supplement, raised $103 million of funding from VMG Partners, Hillhouse Capital and ICONIQ Capital. Notably, the product is available throughout Chicago — just not at GNC. Rather, it is available at Whole Foods, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and Heinan’s. Similarly, in New York City, it is predominantly found at Whole Foods, Fairway and Natural Green Market, among other places.

Supplements are going gangbusters elsewhere too. Earlier this month, Hims, an erectile dysfunction and hair loss company aimed at millennials and dubbed “Viagra, but for hipsters” (yup, you read that right), raised $40 million of funding at a $200 million valuation (kudos to GQ for creative photography). It’s distribution channel? Direct-to-consumer. Sorry GNC. Same goes for Roman and Keeps, two Hims-like competitors.

Meanwhile, The Clorox Company got into the game last week with an $700 million acquisition (3.5x sales) of Nutranext, a Florida-based wellness company that makes supplements and has a strong direct-to-consumer business. You know where you can’t get Nutranext…?

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That’s right: GNC.

Perhaps those restructuring professionals disappointed by Goldman Sachs’ success in securing the refinancing should just put that GNC file in a box labeled “2021.”