Who owns Wayfair? Everything you need to know about the e-commerce retailer


The Boston-based online retailer where you can shop for “a zillion things home” recently made its way to Fortune 500 companies list. As an online marketplace that predominantly trades in home furnishing, Wayfair has managed to carve a niche for itself in an age where Amazon dominates pretty much everything.

In a span of two decades, what began as a single website selling racks and stands has now evolved into an incorporated company that sells tens of millions of products across two continents and various locations.

Key Takeaways

  • Wayfair is a publicly-owned company after its successful public venture in 2014 valued the company at $3.06 billion.
  • Formerly known as CSN Stores, the company raised $165 million during its first institutional funding and planned on going public in 2011.
  • Co-founders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, who founded the company in 2002, serve as the CEO and co-chairman of Wayfair respectively.

Wayfair is a publicly-owned company after its 2014 IPO valued the company at $3 billion

On October 2, 2014, Wayfair Inc. launched its initial public offering (IPO) of 11 million shares valued at $29 apiece and raised $308 million on the very first day. According to Chain Storage Age, 10.5 million shares were composed of Wayfair stock while the remaining 500,000 were the shares from selling stockholders.

It traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “W” and was led by The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., BofA Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup as lead underwriters for the offering. Reuters reported that during the IPO, the stock prices increased by nearly 30 percent and reached an all-time high of $37 at its closing time which valued the company at $3.06 billion.

Bob Pisani, CNBC’s senior markets correspondent, attributed Wayfair’s surprising success in its debut IPO to its increasing revenue over the years. He wrote;

“Even though [Wayfair] doesn’t make money, it is increasing revenues. At about 35 percent a year…In a world starved for growth, investors will pay up for it. And for big growth, like 35 percent a year, they will pay up big.”

Moreover, Reuters noted that the company had witnessed an incredible previous fiscal year where its revenue increased by 52 percent from $601 million in 2012 to $915.8 million in 2013.

Today, according to CNN Business, Wayfair is majorly owned by mutual fund holders with 49.73 percent share ownership, followed by other institutional shareholders at 38.15 percent and individual shareholders at 20.36 percent.

Likewise, apart from its founders, other top owners include Fidelity Management and Research Company, The Vanguard Group, Inc., and Spruce House Investment Management LLC.

Originally known as CSN Stores, the company’s strategic public venture began with its first round of institutional funding in June 2011

In 2002, Niraj Shah and Steve Conine founded Wayfair, which formerly went by CSN Stores, a name that was derived from the initials of the aforementioned founders. As alumni of Cornell University, the budding entrepreneurs met as engineering students. The origin of the company goes back to a website called RacksandStands.com which sold media stands and storage furniture.

“In four months, we became one of the largest online sellers of entertainment furniture,” Shah told Fortune Magazine in a 2019 interview.

Over the next decade, the company expanded its inventory to 250 online stores that sold products in various niches including interior décor, office furniture, cookware, and home remodeling. Conine said;

“We spent nine, 10 years building the systems and infrastructure and worried less about the front end until we had operational consistency. It’s easy to start an e-commerce site and build a sexy front end. It’s very hard to durably deliver the experience you’re promising.”

Therefore, to sustain its longevity, the company decided to work towards expanding and becoming public with the help of outside investors. On June 11, 2011, as per Cision PR Newswire, CSN Stores raised $165 million from four venture capital and equity firms namely Battery Ventures, Great Hill Partners, HarbourVest Partners, and Spark Capital.

“We’ve grown profitably every year since 2002 and have continued to aggressively reinvest in the business, but with our new group of advisors and this infusion of funding, we have plans to grow even more quickly. Our emerging international businesses will see more resources, and we’ll be investing in a major consumer brand launch,” said CEO Niraj Shah.

He also confirmed speculations about the company’s transition towards becoming public and said that with the support of investors, CSN Stores was planning on becoming a “much larger, publicly-traded company” within four or five years.

In September 2011, CSN Stores consolidated its websites and rebranded as Wayfair in anticipation of becoming a publicly owned company

Following its lucrative round of institutional funding, CSN Stores consolidated more than 270 websites into a new “mega-site”, reported TechCrunch. With the launch of Wayfair.com on September 1, 2011, the website housed 5000 brands and offered 4.5 million items, a number that has currently reached 22 million.

According to The Business Journals, Shah asserted that the rebranding of the online CSN Stores into “a more consumer-friendly name” with “an attractive logo, layout, and a technically advanced site platform” would make the shopping experience for customers quicker, enjoyable and memorable.

The company also changed its designation and adopted the name Wayfair LLC, a nonspecific term that was simply coined by a branding company, so that customers could easily identify the brand among other online retailers. Shah further said;

“After years of growing successfully and profitably by selling and delivering huge items including bedroom sets, gazebos, and grills from 200 different sites, we decided it was time to refresh what we do best and focus on one new site to benefit our customers.”

Co-founders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine remain on the board of Wayfair as chief executive officer and co-chairman respectively

Niraj Shah and Steve Conine
Niraj Shah and Steve Conine Co-founders Of Wayfair | Courtesy of Wayfair

The founders of Wayfair, Niraj Shah and Steve Conine, have been an active part of the company since its inception and still play an instrumental role in its running as executives.

From the very beginning, Shah served as the chief executive officer of Wayfair and managed its overall operations while Conine preferred to work behind the scenes and handled the technical aspects of the business as chief technology officer (CTO).

As per Wayfair’s webpage detailing its board of directors, Conine heads the development of the architecting and software systems that “give Wayfair a technological edge in the online retail business”. Furthermore, he also acts as the director (co-chairman) of the company alongside Shah.

Despite the company’s public status, Boston Business Journal states that the founders not only retain voting control of the company but each also owns 28.9 percent of its overall shares post the IPO, making them the largest shareholders of Wayfair.

Speaking with Boston.com in a 2016 interview, Shah described himself as a liberal CEO who takes a hands-off approach to Wayfair’s activities and gives room to his employees to innovate and branch out.

“I’m generally hands-off. I count on the leaders of teams to make things happen. I want folks to be very creative and try things; whatever they think will work. Working with great people only pays off when you give them freedom,” said Shah.

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