Fitbit Looks To New Smartwatch Models As Stock Plummets

February 27, 2018, 6:05 PM UTC

Fitbit’s share price plumbed a new all-time low on Tuesday, after the one-time king of wearable devices announced another disappointing quarter of sliding sales.

The company’s stock, which debuted in 2015 at $20 a share, hit an all-time low of $4.67 in morning trading. It closed at $4.86, down 12% on the day.

Fitbit CEO James Park had bet big on a new $300 smartwatch, dubbed the Ionic, to make up for shrinking sales of cheaper fitness trackers, but it did not attract enough customers. Now the company is racing to broaden its smartwatch line to keep up with bigger rivals like Apple and Samsung.

Instead of the Ionic, it was the year-old Charge 2 tracker, introduced to wow 2016 holiday shoppers, that topped the sales charts for Fitbit for the latest quarter. A 25% price cut on the even older smartwatch-like Fitbit Blaze, which was introduced in early 2016, also helped boost sales.

Fitbit (FIT) didn’t disclose how many Ionic watches it sold among the 5.4 million total devices it moved in the fourth quarter, down from 6.5 million a year earlier. But Park conceded that Ionic failed to meet “aggressive goals” that the company had set.

Total sales in the quarter declined 1% to $571 million, short of the $588 million that analysts had expected.

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Ionic was crushed between the more capable — and expensive — watches from Apple (AAPL) and Samsung and much cheaper models from Asian manufacturers like Huawei. Standout features like five-day battery life and familiar Fitbit step tracking weren’t enough to convince many shoppers to pay $300 when there were so few third party apps available and the sole music app was from Pandora. Competitor Garmin (GRMN) touted its wider array of apps for its Fenix 5 smartwatch as helping boost sales 16% in its outdoor segment for the fourth quarter.

Park admitted as much to analysts on Monday night. “The Ionic offering really truly wasn’t a mass appeal smartwatch, it was more of a performance product so it didn’t really have the reach that some of our competitors had in the market,” he said, explaining that a lack of apps also hurt sales. “I think that dynamic is going to change in 2018. As we mentioned before we expect to have more mass appeal offerings in the market.”

The move to broaden the Ionic line up started almost immediately. On Tuesday, Fitbit said it was partnering with sneaker brand Adidas on a special version of its smartwatch that would have an exclusive training app and new Adidas-designed watch faces. This new version goes on sale March 19 for $330. Other varieties of the Ionic will no doubt be coming soon and Park promised hundreds of developers were working on future apps.

Still, simply moving deeper into smartwatches may not be enough for Fitbit to recover its fortunes. Even with healthy overall growth in the smartwatch market, many companies have failed to keep pace. Fitbit snapped up the remains of failed pioneer Pebble in 2016. And last fall, TomTom (TMOAY) said it was dropping out. Even Google (GOOGL) is struggling, as sales of watches powered by its Android Wear software didn’t grow much in 2017.

With its sinking stock price, Fitbit may itself eventually become attractive as a takeover candidate. The company’s stock market value is down to just $1.1 billion—and that’s with cash and marketable securities of almost $700 million on its balance sheet at the end of 2017.

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