Formerly unfashionable sandal manufacturer now boasts a multi-billion-dollar valuation
German shoe manufacturer Birkenstock has dedicated decades to persuading consumers that what might initially seem undesirable is actually desired.
Now, Wall Street will put that authority to the test.
At the initial public offering price of $46 a share, the company was valued at about $8.6 billion (£7.08 billion), which is double what it will be in 2021.
But as concerns about how much more opportunity there is for growth emerged, shares started trading lower.
The business, which can trace its beginnings to a cobbler from the 18th century and introduced its first sandal in 1963, has gone a long way.
Hippies who were captivated to the shoes' flexible but supportive design were its initial fans.
However, the company, which had previously been linked to a certain level of geeky pragmatism, gradually won over the fashion industry and even received endorsements from supermodel Kate Moss in the 1990s.
The firm has gained a large following over the past ten years thanks to its emphasis on comfort throughout the pandemic, partnerships with fashion designers, and celebrity sightings, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kaia Gerber.
This summer, the brand's debut in the Barbie movie seemed to indicate that it had captured the cultural zeitgeist. The movie's protagonist, following her voyage of liberty, was seen wearing the iconic two-strap sandal in pastel pink. According to reports, the moment caused demand to triple.
Despite persistent skepticism, the business sold over 30 million pairs of shoes last year.
"We think it's ugly," stated 47-year-old Einav Ben Hur, who was recently spotted purchasing a pair of Birkenstocks for her son in a New York retailer. "It's trendy, he adds, so here we areInvestors are wondering if the company can sustain its momentum as shares begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and if it will be detrimental or beneficial to expose the corporation to the pressures of public markets for the first time in its long history.
"Some claim that Birkenstock is currently popular. According to Oliver Reichert, chief executive, "I always reply then, 'this moment has lasted for 250 years, and it will continue to last,'" in the letter announcing the firm's ambitions to list.
With the sale of its shares, L Catterton—a private equity group supported by LVMH, the French luxury conglomerate that acquired a majority stake in the company in 2021—was able to raise around $1.5 billion.
Even if the market is on the verge of fatigue, the business still intends to hold an 80% share in Birkenstock, indicating that it does not think the retailer's finest days are behind it.
At $41 a share, the company's shares debuted on the market, 11% below the IPO price.
Customers expressed concern that the company would face further financial strains as a result of the listing, which would force trade-offs that might damage the brand over time.
Bella Sheth, 55, a project manager from New York, has been purchasing Birkenstocks for over thirty years and currently owns six pairs. "I'm afraid of the IPO because I think the quality will definitely disintegrate," she said. "Hopefully they won't get ruined."According to Thomai Serdari, a marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business, concerns about listing are justified given how frequently investors push for development despite the danger that expansion could backfire and dilute the brand, which is particularly severe in the luxury apparel industry.
However, she claimed that thus far, Birkenstock has been successful in creating a feeling of desire through its partnerships with designers and the introduction of novel hues and materials.
She went on, "Just because you get the IPO doesn't mean that you're going to be a Gap who exploded," alluding to the now-failing apparel company that appeared to be everywhere in the 1990s.
Professor Morten Bennedsen specializes in family business research and teaches at the University of Copenhagen and INSEAD. Subject to investor pressure, he claimed, the company had already changed from being a family-owned business to a modern enterprise when it removed the family's leadership in 2013 and later gained support from L Catterton.
He answered, "That altered everything." In contrast, he said, "This is a completely natural step."
birkenstock is taking a well-traveled route by going public, having followed the lead set by shoe and clothing brands.
Some have suffered a decline in fortune, including the boot manufacturer Dr Martens and the sneaker brand Allbirds, which both went public in 2021 during a boom in the markets.
Others, such as Crocs, which went public in 2006, have shown to be resilient. With almost 100 million pairs of shoes sold annually, the company has more than six times its initial valuation of $5.2 billion.
Even the share price obtained in the initial public offering (IPO) fell roughly in the center of what had been discussed, according to Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown. "It's clear there is some caution among investors about the path ahead for the brand," she said.
Lacey Crocker, who purchased her first pair of Birkenstocks during her time in high school, believes that as long as the shoes maintain the cozy qualities that first sparked their popularity, Birkenstocks will continue to be popular.
"It's all about the arch support," declared the physician's assistant, 39. "Even if they do go out of style, I'd still wear them."