Can Peloton hold on?
In December 2019, everyone was talking about Peloton. Specifically, the company’s disastrous Christmas ad. It was a gaffe so big that some were saying it could bring down the fitness brand for good.
But then COVID-19 hit, shutting down gyms and leaving consumers wondering how they would maintain their fitness routines.
If there is such a thing as a “winner” during a global pandemic, Peloton comes pretty close. Its business model was simple: buy a bike (or later a treadmill) and subscribe to our workout programs and you can stay in shape while staying at home.
The company roughly quadrupled its number of monthly subscribers over the course of two years. 2020 also brought it a 100% increase in sales for the second year in a row. Its programs became so popular, and its users so devoted, that the instructors have ascended to a level of celebrity, with one even competing on Dancing With The Stars.
However, this success did not come without stumbles. Throughout the last year, Peloton faced supply chain issues and long delivery times that frustrated customers. It also recalled its treadmill after a child’s death and dozens of injuries. Still, the equipment continued to sell and subscribers continued to sign up as the pandemic kept workout aficionados at home.
But now, the company has slashed its projected sales by $1 billion — signaling that Peloton’s reign over at-home fitness may have come to an end.
While this may have been surprising to some, I think the writing has been on the wall for some time. Even this summer, sales had begun to plateau. Peloton responded by lowering the price of its most popular bike and sinking dollars into marketing — a move that surprised investors, and ate into profits.
And now, COVID restrictions are being lifted across the country and vaccination rates are rising, allowing many current and prospective Peloton customers to return to the gym.
But, even for those who want to stay home, there are more and more affordable workout options than there were a year ago. Tempo, for example, entered the market with a “mirror” based workout studio that was comparable in cost to Peloton. It recently unveiled its Tempo Move, a compact workout experience that gives you a home gym for just shy of $500.
Even at its lower price point of $1,495 (not including the $39/month subscription fee), Pelotons are still very much a luxury item. And, now that the world is reopening, consumers have more options when they want to splurge. Travel and dining, for example.
Though it is also possible that Peloton may have simply reached its cap of customers for its current offerings: everyone who wants and can afford a Peloton has bought one.
It is clear, however, that if Peloton wants to survive in a post-pandemic world, it is going to have to adapt and continue to innovate, and not just spin its wheels. Maybe that means creating economy versions of its machines. Peloton does have two studios in New York, perhaps this is a time to expand.
Whatever the next move is, Peloton needs to act quickly. Investors are already starting to hit the road.
Danilo Diazgranados is an independent investor in the global food and wine, financial services, real estate, and the hospitality sectors.