Peloton Interactive Inc. (NASDAQ: PTON) management has changed the direction of the company once again. Bungling CEO Barry McCarthy finally has sunk a public corporation that has taken so many twists and turns that it is hard to count them. (These 25 American industries are dying.)
The new direction was hard enough to understand that different media offered different interpretations. CNBC reported, “the company released a new marketing campaign that bills the retailer as a company for anyone, regardless of age, fitness level and income – or whether they shelled out thousands for a pricey piece of equipment.” Gizmodo wrote, “The company, which sells luxury exercise bikes with an accompanying exercise class subscription, is transitioning to focus on offering inclusive health options.”
Peloton’s new marketing director, Leslie Berland, should never have taken such a risky job in the first place. Her take on the change was this: “With this brand relaunch we’re reflecting the vibrancy and fullness of everything Peloton has to offer to everyone.” However, Peloton ran out of “vibrancy and fullness” shortly after McCarthy joined the company and attempted to make the Peloton successful.
Granted, McCarthy had what is known as “headwinds.” People paid extraordinary sums to have Peloton equipment in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that most people can return to gyms, that demand for the equipment certainly has fallen off.
McCarthy made at least three large mistakes, each of which crippled the company. First, he began to offer used versions of the Peloton products. These refurbished versions cost consumers less. They also gave people a way to sidestep the purchase of new products, which carried premium prices.
Then Peloton put its products into middle-income Dick’s Sporting Goods stores and onto Amazon.com. This opened the door to the consumer’s ability to compare less expensive competitors directly. Finally, he put Peloton products into 5,000 Hilton Hotels where, once again, people could compare them to less expensive fitness machines in the same hotel fitness centers.
If this series of strategic missteps appeared anywhere, it was in Peloton’s financial statements. Peloton shares trade perilously close to their 52-week low and have dropped over 50% in the past year and over 90% in the last two years. That, alone, is a statement about McCarthy’s failures.
Peloton’s most recent quarter showed it lost several hundred million dollars again. CNN reported that it is “quickly running out of cash.” In the quarter, Peloton lost $276 million. In the previous quarter, it lost $344 million, in the same quarter the year before, it lost $751 million.
McCarthy has flown Peloton into the side of a mountain. No rebranding or rethinking its business model will change that.
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