CSN Stores, Amid Rebranding and Financing Rumors, Looks to Become “Amazon for the Home”

4/18/11Follow @gthuang

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the time. “That was the only time in company history we had to let go of a large number,” he says. “It was pretty painful.”

The company got back on track the old-fashioned way. “We watched our costs really tightly,” Shah says. “We cut back on some advertising. We watched metrics closely. As we saw the market come back—we’re very quantitative—we became aggressive again with advertising. We didn’t have to cut some key strategic initiatives, [such as] our growth in Europe.”

Now CSN seems poised for its next growth spurt. “The next goal is to get to a billion in retail sales,” Conine says. “Over the next five to seven years, we could take the company public.” He emphasizes that any IPO is “still years off.” But those are very ambitious goals, especially for a company that hasn’t raised outside financing. (Venture capitalists, after all, like to say that you can’t build a billion-dollar company without VC.)

Which brings us to the current rumors. I’ve been hearing from investors around town that CSN is looking into raising a big growth financing round. The company declined to talk about any specific fundraising plans. Conine emphasized that CSN could continue to grow (and become a public company) without taking outside investment—but he left the door open for speculation. “There’s a question about whether it’s strategically smart to bring on institutional money at some point,” he says. “Having an institutional investor advise you along the way and have skin in the game could be beneficial.” Hypothetically speaking, he said CSN would be “too big for VCs” and probably better suited for private equity.

As for any company name change, BostInnovation reported on Friday (based on an internal company announcement) that CSN plans to rebrand itself as “WayFair.” In response to that report, a CSN spokesman told me that “calling it rebranding would be wrong at this point.” And in a statement, the company wrote, “CSN Stores as a name is not going away. We launch many new brands into the marketplace every year. Wayfair is a brand we are planning to launch this year, which we discussed at a recent company meeting.”

It’s no secret that CSN is looking to gain major brand awareness among consumers. With a catchier name, presumably the company could become more of a unified, return-destination site (like Amazon.com). But Conine was pretty cagey when I asked him early last week about any rebranding efforts. “We never intended for [CSN Stores] to be a consumer brand site,” he said. When pressed for more details on the company’s future brand name, all he would say is, “It’ll evolve.”

But he added that CSN’s main focus is on continuing to follow its game plan—growing carefully, building out technology, and focusing on customers. “Regardless of what name you use,” he said, “if you can’t deliver a consistent experience, it’s not worth remembering.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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