Warby Parker (WRBY) shares began trading at $54.05 each on Wednesday, giving the direct-to-consumer eyewear company a valuation of about $6 billion. The company went public via a direct listing with a reference price of $40 per share set by the New York Stock Exchange. The stock soared more than 30% from its reference price in the first minutes of trading.
Warby Parker is seen as a disruptor within the eyewear industry.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is how big the optical business is. It’s $140 billion. Here in the U.S. we’re about 1% market share,” co-founder Neil Blumenthal told Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday. “We still believe we’re in the first inning here.”
The company was founded 11 years ago as an alternative to expensive glasses. Initially it operated online. Customers would receive glasses at home and return the ones they didn’t want. Eventually the company opened physical locations.
“We started Warby Parker because we were frustrated consumers walking to an optical shop, walking out, feeling like we had been ripped off,” said Blumenthal. “The thought was if we could build our own brand and design our own glasses and go direct to customers. We could sell a product like the ones I’m wearing for $95, instead of $400 or $500,” he added.
Warby Parker’s glasses start at $95, including prescription lenses. It also offers contact lenses, eye exams, and vision tests.
The company temporarily closed its brick-and-mortar locations during COVID-19 lockdowns last year, though continued servicing customers through its digital channels.
The pandemic has been beneficial to the company’s sales as customers are spending more time online in front of a screen.
Warby Parker has also expanded into the growing category of progressive lenses, for $295.
“We’re offering great value to that customer segment, but it’s a newer part of our business, and it will create a lot of tailwinds for us going forward,” said co-founder Dave Gilboa.
Ines is a markets reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @ines_ferre.