Weight Watchers (WTW) CEO Jim Chambers
Started as CEO: July 30, 2013
Total Return of WTW: -56%
Total Return of S&P 500: +8%
About the worst possible thing that can happen to any company is having to compete against a rival who provides the same or a similar service for free or at a low cost. Newspapers found themselves in that situation at the dawn of the Internet age, and now Weight Watchers (WTW) is in the same situation.
In Weight Watchers’ case, the company’s core meetings business is shriveling as dieters are increasingly using free apps or even paying for activity wearables from Nike (NKE), Under Armour (UA) and others to help them lose weight. Not to mention, the diet arena in general is a historically fickle one.
Under Chambers, Weight Watchers has tried to make its program simpler, but its Simple Start program — which it has been relentlessly hawking in commercials staring Jessica Simpson — has flopped. WTW also is trying to partner with corporate clients to get them to provide the Weight Watchers program as part of their healthcare initiatives. It’s unclear whether that businesses will grow fast enough to make up for the declines in its meetings business.
Regardless, investors are hungry as heck for better returns in WTW. A halving of one’s stock in half a year’s time doesn’t make for solid footing.