Fitness unicorn Peloton expected to struggle, despite new Hyatt deal

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Just years after its rapid rise to success, fitness unicorn Peloton is struggling with flatlining sales and controversies. Analysts say its latest strategies won’t help it outrun—or out-bike—its problems.

The company announced Wednesday plans to partner with Hyatt to put its equipment in over 800 hotel locations across the U.S., Canada, UK, Germany, Austria, and Australia, with Hyatt reward program members earning points for using the equipment. About half of the locations will have TVs in guests’ rooms featuring Peloton’s fitness content. 

The announcement comes the day before Peloton’s first quarter earnings report, where the company is expected to post a 3.75% sales loss. Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData’s retail division, told Fortune the partnership could help increase exposure to Peloton, but it likely won’t translate to new sales. The company reported $743.6 million in 2023 sales, down from $792.7 million the year before, but expects to return to revenue growth by June.

“The products are very expensive,” Saunders said. “A lot of consumers that want them have already got them, so they’re not in the market to buy new Peloton products.”  A Peloton Bike costs $1,445, and the Bike+ costs $2,495, still cheaper than the $2,995 Peloton Row.

“These deals and partnerships are helpful to Peloton, but they don’t really change the fundamental trajectory of the company,” he added.

The partnership with Hyatt is among several strategies Peloton has employed to revive the company’s stalled growth. In addition to a similar partnership with 5,400 U.S. Hilton hotels, Peloton is leaning on retail partners like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Amazon to sell its products, removing pressure from its failed brick-and-mortar showrooms. Last month, it quietly dissolved free membership on its app less than a year after its introduction after it failed to bring in paid subscribers.

Peloton’s fall has been almost as swift as its rise. At its peak in January 2021, Peloton’s market capitalization soared to over $45 billion when lockdown forced people to seek out virtual group cycling classes. It’s since lost 90% of its value and hovers around $1.14 billion as it barely hangs onto the unicorn status it achieved after a 2017 funding round bumped it to a $1.25 billion valuation. The company’s shares have tanked to penny stock status at $3.11 a share, a fraction of its IPO priced at $29.

Peloton did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment.

An unfriendly market

Peloton, founded in 2012 as a fitness equipment company with an interactive platform, soared during the pandemic thanks to closed gyms and remote work. It had a 172% sales blitz in the first six months of 2020, raking in $1.82 billion in revenue that year, and more than doubled it to $4 billion a year later. But according to Jessica Ramírez, senior retail research analyst at investment firm Jane Hali & Associates, Peloton didn’t know what to do with its rapid rise to success.

“I don’t think they thought [about] what was going to happen post-pandemic,” Ramírez told Fortune. “When you’re growing a company, you always have to think of the future … because the consumer is going to change. The consumer is constantly changing.”

The company’s stumbling blocks also included a series of controversies, including Sex and the City star Chris Noth—who was featured in a Peloton ad—being accused of sexual assault in 2021, forcing the company to pull the campaign. Peloton recalled its Tread Plus treadmill that same year after it was involved in the death of a child. Co-founder John Foley stepped down as CEO in 2022, after rumblings that he failed to accurately forecast the market and act on product recalls. His successor Barry McCarthy laid off thousands of employees and outsourced operations to third parties to try to bring the company back to profitability.

Even on the other side of the pandemic, scandal, and corporate restructuring, Ramírez isn’t convinced the market will be friendly toward Peloton. 

“I find Peloton to be a tough sell in today’s environment, just because the consumer is living their day-to-day life,” she said.

Not only does shrinking remote work opportunities mean less reason to work out at home, but those continuing to work from home want to get out of the house and find community in fitness environments, particularly outdoors activities like running. The running app Strava reached 100 million users in July 2023, doubling its base in just two years. Nike’s app users are over 500 million strong. Not only is running more popular, it’s also cheaper, Ramírez said, setting you back only a pair of sneakers.

Putting the pieces of its recent past together doesn’t spell success: “I don’t think the trajectory looks very good for Peloton, to be honest,” Saunders said. “I see them as a company that will continue to shrink, that will continue to have to make very difficult decisions around restructuring, and as a company that will remain low to no profit in the foreseeable future.”

Redefining success

Despite Peloton’s fair share of troubles, Simeon Siegel, managing director and senior retail analyst at BMO Capital, isn’t ready to call the company a failure. Too often shareholders and consumers issue verdicts on companies based solely on initial lofty expectations.

“We judge them relatively,” he told Fortune. “Relative to what this business has promised, [Peloton] has been a clear disappointment. For a business, it has been a success story.”

Not many fitness businesses can create a compelling product and boast 3 million subscribers, Siegel argued. Analysts agreed that Peloton has good products and consistent consumer loyalty. Peloton will only be a failed business in Siegel’s eyes if it doesn’t lean into that loyal following and continues to chase growth that just isn’t there.

“It has an underlying business that makes a lot of money,” he said. “Most businesses in trouble can’t say that.”



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