It was just over two years ago that Peloton exercise bikes became the surprise hit of the pandemic, as people staying at home during and after the COVID-19 quarantine sought an outlet for exercise and social interaction. During those high times, Peloton’s manufacturer- direct-to-consumer sales model couldn’t make bikes fast enough, customer wait times stretched into months, and company profits soared. But just as quickly as Peloton hit its pandemic peak, things opened back up and the company’s sales took a nosedive.
In response, Peloton fired its CEO and almost 3,000 employees, outsourced its manufacturing, raised prices, and looked to cut costs. In an effort to broaden its appeal, the company also expanded its product line to include treadmills, AI fitness trackers, and branded apparel. And now, in yet another move away from its direct-to-consumer sales model, Peloton has announced it will sell its bikes, accessories, and apparel through Amazon.
A Peloton news release noted the collaboration allows the company “to expand its distribution and more immediately engage millions of Peloton Members and prospective Members in a new channel for the brand, making products and accessories more readily accessible in Amazon store.” Granted, that wider distribution and greater accessibility could help Peloton, as the company has traditionally relied on its own employees to deliver and set up new bikes. With Amazon now doing much of the delivery and setup, Peloton could cut costs further through additional reductions in their own delivery fleet.
For all the optimism of Peloton’s Amazon distribution agreement, investors aren’t seeing too much to be excited about. Though Peloton stock surged 20% on the day of the Amazon announcement, it dropped in equal measure a day later when the company announced it operated at a loss for the sixth consecutive quarter and its sales and memberships were continuing to decline. While Peloton says its larger focus is on pursuing growth in subscription revenue, it also noted a glut of unsold inventory. For many financial analysts, enhancing subscription revenue without increasing membership and selling more fitness equipment might mean a tough road ahead for Peloton.
In addition to the Amazon distribution agreement, during the revenue call, Peloton officials also noted other potential avenues to increase sales. Those initiatives include “selling pre-owned bikes, renting bikes for a monthly fee, and adding new tiers to Peloton’s digital app, including a premium tier where people would pay more for expanded content and better features.
For Peloton to turn around its equipment sales fortunes, analysts say its subscriber base needs to grow as well. Peloton subscribers, who own a Peloton bike or treadmill and pay a monthly fee for live or on-demand workouts, currently number about 3 million people. That’s a far cry from the company’s stated goal of 100 million fitness subscribers.
Ultimately, however, Peloton’s downward trending sales numbers have many analysts wondering if the company’s popularity has peaked and if it will revert to its pre-pandemic status as a pricey, niche product, beloved by a small, loyal core with few new adopters. In marketing terms, no new demand for a product is called “brand saturation.” If that’s the case for Peloton, brand saturation likely won’t be overcome by Amazon’s enhanced distribution.