Shares in Fitbit Inc (NYSE:FIT) remain just pennies above an all-time low and investors can’t count on the holiday selling season to give FIT a lift anytime soon.
The leader in wearable fitness had a very mixed Black Friday, and that points to an acceleration of current unfriendly trends. FIT was the best-selling name in its product category on Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Target Corporation‘s (NYSE:TGT) web store, but that comes with an asterisk.
The only reason FIT came in No. 1 was because of discounting, which hurts already vulnerable margins. It’s also clear that the name is ceding market share to rivals. Longbow research notes that searches for Fitbit online on Black Friday were down 11% vs. last year.
True, wearables saw a big spike in interest year-over-year. Target said it saw a 50% spike compared to Black Friday 2015. However, that’s off a small base. There’s still no compelling evidence that it can be more than a niche market.
Certainly nothing Fitbit has done would argue against that conclusion.
When the most important name in the product category goes into the all-important holiday season fresh off a crumby earnings report and weak guidance, you know wearables have a long way to go to become mass market.
The company all but threw in the towel on the final quarter of the year weeks ago, with profit and revenue forecasts well below Wall Street’s forecast.
FIT expects fourth-quarter revenue to come in between $725 million and $750 million, down from previous estimates of $985 million. Earnings per share for the year are now pegged at 55 cents to 59 cents a share. That’s a whopping cut to the prior outlook which stood at EPS of $1.12 to $1.24 a share.
A Wealth of Uncertainty for FIT
William Blair equity research summed up the situation like this:
“Fitbit reported a mixed quarter, missing the Street’s estimate on revenue though exceeding the consensus estimate on EBITDA. The stock is down over 25% in after-hours trading, as the company provided guidance for the seasonally strong fourth quarter that was well below consensus estimates. As a result, full year 2016 revenue, EBITDA, and EPS guidance was also guided considerably lower and well below our model due to several factors. Most notable is the softer-than-expected demand for new products, specifically the Charge 2 and Flex 2. Moreover, the company experienced a supply disruption with its Flex 2 product that led to waste and gross margin degradation that is expected to persist through the fourth quarter. Over the longer term, we continue to have concerns over competitive pressures and uncertainty with Street estimates given the company’s dependence on new products for growth.”
The key to this passage is “competitive pressures.” The company is going up against gadget giants like Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Samsung Electronic (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) and Garmin Ltd. (NASDAQ:GRMN). Analysts say the company needs to innovate in features and form factors to get its mojo back — but what happens when a rival gets there first?
FIT stock has lost more than 70% of its value this year and there’s nothing on the near horizon to suggest it can recover.
This is one of those “next year” stories, where the market has to wait until the second or third quarter of 2017 for a catalyst. But given the relatively small potential size of the wearables market, it’s probably not worth waiting for.
Consumer electronics like Fitbit can never stay hot for too long anyway. They rapidly become commodities with ever-shrinking margins. It was fun while it lasted, but investors should run away from this name as a long-term holding.
As of this writing, Dan Burrows did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.