Strange new retail creature Wayfair emerges from 200 domains

You may not have heard of it, but this year a company called Wayfair surpassed Crate & Barrel to become the No. 2 online retailer of home furnishings and housewares in the U.S., based on annual sales. Wayfair carries more than 4.5 million items from 5,000 brands, and it’s still growing.

Wayfair is the friendly, e-commerce version of Leviathan, a movie monster that scared the $#!% out of me back in 1989. In the horror flick, the slimy sea creature with sharp teeth went around a submarine and consumed the crew. The crew then became a living part of the monster, their faces protruding from the beast, making it hard for survivors to want to kill Leviathan.

Formerly CSN Stores, Wayfair is an e-commerce giant that has quietly taken 200 sites that it created or acquired — Cookware.com, Luggage.com, Strollers.com, BedroomFurniture.com, and more — and folded everything into one mega-site in an effort to create a more memorable brand. Only two of the companies it has created, AllModern.com and members-only retailer Joss & Main, will continue to operate outside of the Wayfair Leviathan. They are the survivors, while the rest of the domains direct shoppers to Wayfair.com.

The only companies that could stand a chance of “killing” Wayfair are the ones it has partnered with: Amazon.com, Walmart, Sears and Best Buy. They all share revenue with Wayfair and, in turn, gain access to those recognized market places are that keeping Wayfair financially afloat while the mega site constructs a new brand.

I wonder if a slimy, toothy version of Wayfair is keeping Amazon execs up at night. The partnership seems to be a situation in which keeping your enemies close pays off. Literally. Wayfair is expected to make $500 million in sales this year.

I asked chairman and co-founder Steven Conine if Wayfair is the next Amazon.com. “That would be nice,” he laughed. “We have a partnership with them, so they’re pretty excited about our growth.”

I’m excited about Wayfair’s shopping platform. The site is cleaner than Amazon.com and searching for products is easier. I purchased outdoor furniture off the Wayfair site, even though I originally came across the items during a search on Amazon.com. The Wayfair name didn’t ring a bell, but I was much happier with the user interface so I decided to give them a shot.

Founded in 2002 as CSN, Wayfair raised its first round of institutional funding in June 2011. The $165 million came from Battery Ventures, Great Hill Partners, HarbourVest Partners and Spark Capital. It was the largest Q2 funding in the U.S., according to The MoneyTree Report.

Conine will spend “tens of millions” on advertising this year. Pretty soon, you’ll know what Wayfair is. Don’t be scared though, unless you’re in the business of selling home goods.

(Image courtesy Wayfair.com)

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