💥Projection Poppycock: Casper vs. Mattress Firm💥

🛏 Casper Joins Long List of Unicorns & Prospective IPOs 🛏

News emerged this week that Casper — the direct-to-consumer mattress company that is now becoming less-and-less direct-to-consumer and more-and-more brick-and-mortar (solo, and at Costco and Target) — intends to join the frenzied rush of money-losing companies headed towards a public offering in the midst of once-inverted yield curves and fears of recession. The appetite for IPOs is so frenetic that Lyft’s IPO was over-subscribed after a mere two days of roadshow — this, notwithstanding the fact that the company (a) has blown through crazy piles of money and (b) is unsure of its business model and whether it will ever even earn a profit. It then priced above the high end of its initial range and then popped like a champagne cork once shares opened for trading.

Source: Yahoo Finance

Source: Yahoo Finance

Because, you know, whatevs: details shmetails. IPO!!*

The Information got its hands on some leaked Casper financials (paywall) and…spoiler alert! It, too, “continued to lose money” ($18mm in Q3). That said, in Q3 of 2018, the mattress maker reportedly had net revenue of $105.3mm (a 60% YOY increase) on $34.9mm of marketing spend (“only” a 12.9% increase), projecting net revenue of $373mm for fiscal year 2018 and $8mm of EBITDA for 2019. Per The Information, here is a summary of Casper’s financials:

Source: The Information

Source: The Information


Casper’s presentation also contained bullish forecasts for the future, with net revenue jumping to $1.655 billion and $2.135 billion in 2022 and 2023 respectively, and EBITDA of $33 million and $450 million during those years. (emphasis added)

For North America, which accounts for the vast majority of the company’s business, ecommerce represented over 68% of its third quarter gross revenue, while retail was just over 11%. (emphasis added)

The Information piece includes no data points about the number of stores that Casper ultimately expects to deploy for its growth push but CNN reported last year that Casper hopes to have 200 stores by 2021 (a figure reiterated by Fortune in the tweet below). News surfaced recently that Casper also just closed on a $100mm Series D financing provided by, among others, Target Corp ($TGT), the CEO of Canada Goose Holdings ($GOOS) and the former co-founder and chairman of Crate & Barrel. Total funding is up to $340mm. Per Fortune, “[t]he startup will use the capital to expand internationally and grow its physical retail stores.

In total, those are some bullish projections considering the competitive landscape:

The online mattress market has seen increasing competition in recent years from retailers including Amazon and Walmart. There are also other startups, such as Purple and Tuft & Needle, which was acquired by the mattress manufacturer Serta Simmons Bedding last year. A large mattress store chain, the Mattress Firm, filed for bankruptcy protection last year, which Casper noted in its presentation as a favorable event for the competitive landscape. (emphasis added)

Oy, Mattress Firm. SAVAGE BURN, BRO!! 🔥

Speaking of Mattress Firm, we have projections there too: thank you bankruptcy!! And this allows for a fascinating juxtaposition.

Source: Mattress Firm Disclosure Statement

Source: Mattress Firm Disclosure Statement

With a fraction of the brick-and-mortar presence, Casper projects to have net revenue that is merely $300mm less than Mattress Firm by 2023! How’s that for a commentary about disruption, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail? Note that Mattress Firm expects to have $630mm in fixed store expenses (for approximately 2500 stores)** while Casper would have approximately $127mm. Per The Information:

Casper said each new store in the U.S. typically involves $635,000 in capital expenditures and $70,000 in inventory, with an average payback of less than 24 months.

If we’re doing our math right, that means Casper has a significantly larger per-store capex spend than Mattress Firm. On the plus side, unless they’re total frikken morons (or trolls), Casper likely won’t have competing stores sitting literally across the highway from one another.*** So, there’s that.

CEO Philip Krim once said, “We’ve never been anti-retail — just anti-mattress retail.


He also said:

"Normally you open a store, have to build presence, then the store loses money and eventually pays back after many years," Krim said. "We have such a productive digital business that we’re profitable on day one of opening a store."

(PETITION Note: not sure how you’re “profitable on day one of opening a store” when the average payback is “less than 24 months” but who are we to call out competing narratives?)

Casper projects $450mm in EBITDA by 2023. In contrast, Mattress Firm projects merely $274mm. Casper has the benefit of landing brick-and-mortar space at a time when landlords are more forgiving with rents; it also has the hyped-up DTC narrative blowing at its back — a clear contrast to the old and stodgy market view of Mattress Firm (which, to be fair, also was able, over the course of its bankruptcy, to renegotiate a meaningful number of its leases with landlords). Said another way, Casper simply seems better positioned to omni-channel its way to success while incumbents like Mattress Firm continue to play catchup. 

Now, these are projections, right? So, query which kind of projection is more full of sh*t? Startup projections or bankrupted debtor projections? It’s a coin flip. In reality, the competitive posture of Casper vs. Mattress Firm four years from now is anyone’s guess. More likely than not, one or both of them are overly optimistic here. But if Casper is right about its projections, that could lead to a significant surprise for Mattress Firm. And given Mattress Firm’s previous strategies, would you want to put your money on Mattress Firm over Casper?

Continue to short strip mall landlords.


Elsewhere in sleep disruption, S&P Global Ratings downgraded Serta Simmons Bedding LLC from B- to CCC+, stating:

…operating performance deteriorated in the fourth quarter of 2018 well below our expectations due to large volume declines with top customers and industry headwinds, leading to adjusted leverage increasing to near 11x as of Dec. 29, 2018.


*Who stands to make money from such an IPO? Investors include Target Corp. ($TGT), Lerer Hippeau Ventures, IVP and New Enterprise Associates. Leonardo DiCaprio, Kyrie Irving and 50 Cent are also early backers.

**Mattress Firm had approximately 3250 stores on its chapter 11 bankruptcy petition date. According to certain bankruptcy materials, the company indicated that it would shed approximately 700 locations.

***Callback to “Mattress Firm Finally Rips the Band-Aid Off (Short Landlords),” wherein we wrote:

Thanks to an overly aggressive growth-by-acquisition strategy, you could essentially turn left and see a Mattress Firm, turn right, see a Mattress Firm, and turn around and see a Mattress Firm. 

And the company actually noted in its bankruptcy filing:

While these acquisitions have allowed Mattress Firm to enter major markets in which it previously did not have a significant presence, and to significantly expand its share of the retail market, they also left Mattress Firm with too many newly-rebranded stores in close proximity to existing Mattress Firm stores. The result has been a significant increase in Mattress Firm’s occupancy and related costs and a negative impact on the profitability of hundreds of its stores. There are many examples of a Mattress Firm store being located literally across the street from another Mattress Firm store.

🚲Well-Funded Machines Terrorize Sidewalks 🚲

The Rise of the Electric Scooter

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Do y’all remember the segway? It was supposed to revolutionize transportation but it never took off as anything more than the butt of a joke. Why? Look at the above photo. Homeboy can pump as many curls as he needs to but all the bulging biceps in the world won’t make him look bada$$ riding one of those things. Plus, watch the eye level broheim.

Anyway, there is a new mode of transportation that is all the rage. Introducing the dockless electric scooter…

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Busted Tech (All Hail Uber & Lyft)

Rest in Peace, Fasten


Late on Friday, the co-founders of Fasten, a ride-hailing company that proudly boasts of over 5 million rides completed, sent around a note to users that it has been acquired by Vezet Group. If you’ve never lived or worked in Austin or Boston, you probably don’t give a damn about this so you can move on. But, if you did, you’re aware of Fasten - particularly since it was the only real viable ride-hailing option in Austin during a period of time (2016) when Uber and Lyft fought with regulators. That fight was resolved, however, and Uber and Lyft returned to the city less than a year ago. Now Fasten is done for: this acquisition is an IP-sale. Operations in the US will be shut and 35 employees let go. In the dog eat dog world of ride-hailing, it is telling that the winners like Uber are those who survive - regardless of a cash burn in the billions of dollars annually. Move fast(est), burn cash, and break things.

Is New York City F*cked? Part II.

We previously expressed our concern about the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan for tackling disruption. The gist was that the Mayor's budget fails to take into account the effect of Uber and Lyft on taxi medallion values. To add insult to injury, this American Council for Capital Formation report makes it sound like the City's pension funds are being managed in a way that would make even Bill Ackman look good. Choice quote: "The performance of the New York City Pension Funds over the past decade has not kept pace with what is needed to stay solvent over the long term. Unfortunately, even conservative estimates project unfunded liabilities to be in excess of $56 billion. It is therefore extremely concerning that managers are spending dwindling resources on investments that are socially or politically motivated, rather than based on performance." The report paints a pretty gnarly picture of how New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has handled pensions, notwithstanding the funds' recent market-based improvement. Distressed investing fans will particularly love this bit: "For example, the New York City pension funds paid $2.1 million in fees to Perry Capital in fiscal 2016, and had $129 million invested in the firm when it shut down its flagship fund in September 2016 after losing money for three consecutive years. The cumulative return of the city’s pension funds’ investments in Perry Capital inception to date was -14 percent, as of September 2016." Riiiiiiiight. 

As we said before, color us concerned.

Is New York City F*cked?

Uber, Lyft, and Political Incompetence: Mayor de Blasio Needs to Get it Together


Maybe New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ought to subscribe to PETITION. He clearly doesn’t grasp disruption. And other elected officials are calling him out on it.

Just recently, Thomas DiNapoli, State Comptroller, released his “Review of the Financial Plan of the City of New York”. Buried within the document is a subtle rebuke of the de Blasio administration’s failure to acknowledge any semblance of reality. Here are some key highlights:

  • The November (Financial) Plan covers a four-year financial plan from 2018–2021. That plan projects a budget gap of $7.1b, a number dismissed as “relatively small as a share of City fund revenues (averaging 3.5 percent).” The gap has tightened in large part due to pension fund over-performance. PETITION Note: Hmmm. Query how long that will last.
  • NYC’s economy has expanded more than at any time since WWII. But job growth is slowing and may slow more given federal tax policies.
  • The FY 2019 budget gap estimate was increased by $360mm to $4.4b because “tax receipts have fallen short of expectations.” “Despite the strength of the City’s economy, non-property tax collections have underperformed. For example, the City had assumed that business tax collections would increase by 9.1 percent in FY 2018, but collections declined instead by 8.9 percent during the first four months of the fiscal year (after declining for two consecutive years). Although the City lowered its forecast by $240 million in FY 2018, the out-year forecasts were left unchanged.” PETITION Note: read that last line again!
  • The Plan anticipates $8.3b of federal funding in FY 2018, accounting for 10% of the City budget. PETITION Note: Right. We’ll see. There is obviously a real question whether the federal government may be counted on to fund the City at the same levels. And federal taxes and home ownership costs are obviously expected to increase for many City residents. “Changes in federal fiscal policies, however, constitute the greatest risk to the City since the Great Recession.”

And then our favorite bit:

  • The City has 1650 taxi medallions to sell but has postponed sales since 2014 with the express acknowledgement that ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber are affecting medallion values. “The average sale price for a taxi medallion peaked at $1 million in calendar year 2014, but it was nearly cut in half by 2016. Weakness in market conditions has continued, with the average sale price declining in 2017 to $350,000 as of November 2017.” And, YET, the November Plan assumes the 1650 medallions will be sold at an average price of $728k.

Wait, what? Just last week, First Jersey Credit Union reportedly auctioned off six NYC taxi medallions for a high bid of $186k. And then on Tuesday January 16, five medallions were sold for a total of $875,000. Two additional medallions sold for $189k and $199k, respectively. To quote the previously linked Crain’s New York piece, “When a taxi medallion sold for $241,000 last March, the seemingly rock-bottom price made major news. It turns out, those were the good old days.” And then there is this, “One industry veteran said the auction prices are low, relatively speaking, because these are cash deals at a time when banks are not lending for medallion purchases.” Right, because the banks know that medallions make for crappy collateral and have zero desire to try and catch those falling knives. These are just the latest in a recent trend of distressed medallion sales — many of which have taken place in the bankruptcy courts. This stuff is public information. We’d think that Mayor de Blasio and his administration would be aware of it. Apparently not.

Here’s the problem: either through ignorance (it’s not like others haven’t noticed) or wishful thinking (that, what, Uber AND Lyft will FAIL?), the administration is budgeting on the basis of medallion sales that may never happen. And, even if they do, they are unlikely to fetch the value projected. Per DiNapoli, this error leaves an estimated $731mm shortfall in the budget. This is an astounding level of cluelessness. Even for a politician.

More importantly, if the de Blasio administration can’t see what is occurring right in front of them, how is it to be counted on to address bigger issues coming soon? Like autonomous cars, for instance? “‘Autonomous vehicles will have a significant and fundamental effect on cities and how they’re laid out’”. Color us concerned. If you live in New York, you should be too.

PETITION is a digital media company focused on disruption from the vantage point of the disrupted. We have a kick-a$$ weekly newsletter. You can subscribe HERE and follow us on Twitter HERE.

An Auto Dumpster Fire. Thanks @Uber. ($HTZ)

We've covered the Uber-effect as it relates to taxis - in particular the precipitous decline in the value of tax medallions, requests for bailouts (in New York), and bankruptcies all across the country (most notably in San Francisco). With auto loan delinquencies on the rise and the used car market looking over-supplied, it's time for more blood in the water. Hertz Global Holdings' 52-week high is $53. It now trades at $15 and that is UP from its low of $7. It reports Q1 earning on 5/8 but last quarter was a bloodbath with EBITDA down 85+% y-o-y. Leverage as of last quarter was 7x pre-cash. On a quick glance the Icahn-backed company has plenty of liquidity - including a largely untapped Barclays revolver - but there could be some near-term covenant issues. And with more and more corporate travelers relying on Uber and Lyft, Hertz' management had better pack windbreakers. Meanwhile, auto dealers are looking for creative ways to alleviate their own pain with upstarts like vroom.com disintermediating the (frustratingly painful) process of purchasing a car. To the extent that anyone is actually purchasing a car. Bueller, Bueller?