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Companies That Should Disappear, But Haven’t

Luke Lango

Sometimes, companies find themselves on the wrong side of a secular trend. Usually when that happens, even the most powerful companies can be crippled. Indeed, it isn’t out of the norm for a company stuck on the wrong side of a secular trend to entirely disappear.

But while some companies lay down and die when the cards are stacked against them, others keep fighting. They innovate. They pivot. And in some cases, they completely change.

Sometimes this works. Sometimes it doesn’t. When it works, you get a powerful rebound story and a stock that could be a multi-bagger. When it doesn’t work, you get a crumbling rebound story and a stock that keeps falling.

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With that in mind, here’s a list of 3 companies that should disappear, but haven’t just yet.


Companies That Should Disappear: Foot Locker, Inc. (FL)

Foot Locker, Inc. (NYSE:FL) used to be one of the most popular destinations at the mall, as stores would be packed with shoe enthusiasts collecting the latest and greatest sneakers from their favorite brands.

Companies That Should Disappear: Foot Locker, Inc. (FL)

Source: Mike Mozart via Flickr

But, then Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) and e-commerce came along. Now, all those enthusiasts who were packed into Foot Locker stores are now buying their shoes online. Sometimes, those purchases happen through Footlocker.com. Other times, they happen through Amazon or another e-commerce channel.

Net result? Foot Locker’s brick-and-mortar traffic volume fell by a bunch. The e-commerce business grew, but in a competitive digital commerce landscape, so that gain hasn’t been enough to offset traditional brick-and-mortar declines. Thus, sales and margins have been down, and FL stock has fallen off a cliff.

For all intents and purposes, this company should’ve disappeared by now. Just look at the number of bankruptices in the sports retail section. Everyone from Sports Authority to Sports Chalet has seemingly gone under.

But, not Foot Locker.

There are a few reasons for this, namely the fact that Foot Locker has a really strong partnership with Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE). Because Nike sees Foot Locker as a critical distribution channel for Nike products, Nike continues to give Foot Locker exclusive and strong product that helps drive positive traffic flow, even in a crowded retail environment.

Will this Nike partnership keep Foot Locker afloat over the next several years?

I think so, mostly because the Nike partnership is a lifeboat until the bigger rescue ship arrives.

Malls are are on the comeback. Some malls have gone under, but developers have taken the money from those dead malls and streamlined it into top-tier malls. The malls that are left are getting face-lifts, with new stores and new experiences, which will help reinvigorate mall traffic. We are still in the early phases of this transition, but over the next five years, I expect malls to stage an unexpectedly large comeback.

If so, FL stock could soar. So, while this stock may be in the group of companies that should disappear, I think it more belongs in the category of companies that will bounce back from near extinction.


Companies That Should Disappear: Pandora Media Inc (P)

Pandora Media Inc (NYSE:P) pioneered the streaming music genre a few years back with its ad-supported internet radio stations. At that time, Pandora stock was trading at nearly $40.

Companies That Should Disappear: Pandora Media Inc (P)

Source: Shutterstock

But then, the same streaming music genre that Pandora pioneered ended up pushing the company to near extinction. The whole genre moved toward paid, on-demand music subscriptions. While competitors such as Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Spotify Technology SA (NYSE:SPOT) embraced this paid service, Pandora didn’t. As a result, Apple Music and Spotify surged in popularity, and Pandora turned into an after-thought.

Pandora stock dropped. Just a few weeks ago, it was under $5 and it looked like this company was going to remain irrelevant until it closed shop.

But then, the company reported quarterly earnings that were far better than expected. Namely, Pandora’s new subscription business got a nice lift in both number of subscribers and average revenue per subscriber. That gave the whole company’s financials a nice lift, something that simply wasn’t priced in when the stock was trading below $5.

Moreover, the market seems to be getting excited about Pandora’s recent acquisition of AdsWizz, a firm that specializes exclusively in digital audio advertising. Based on management commentary, it seems like Pandora is planning on using AdsWizz to create a centralized digital audio advertisement marketplace. If successful, this business could turn into “the thing” at Pandora, considering the digital audio advertising market is expected to grow by a ton over the next several years as radio ads shift to the digital format.

In other words, the whole idea is that the AdsWizz acquisition accelerates Pandora’s ad-tech roadmap, thrusts the company more deeply into the secular growth audio advertising market, ditches the company’s reliance on its struggling streaming music platform, and opens up new revenue opportunities.

All that combined with a surprisingly strong subscription business has lifted Pandora stock back from the dead. How much higher this stock can go depends on whether or not its AdsWizz and subscription tailwinds continue to gain momentum.


Companies That Should Disappear: Fitbit Inc (FIT)

Unlike the other two companies on this list, Fitbit Inc (NYSE:FIT) hasn’t had any semblance of a comeback recently. Instead, the wearables maker continues to struggle thanks to weakness in its core basic activity trackers market.

Companies That Should Disappear: Fitbit Inc (FIT)

Source: Fitbit

Fitbit is trying to transition its business from those basic activity trackers to more complex smartwatches. But, that transition is happening at a snail’s pace. Even though Fitbit has launched two smartwatches over the past year, total revenue from new devices was just 34% last quarter.

That is pretty abysmal, considering total devices sold was down more than 25% year over year. That means the company’s giant basic activity trackers business is still in free-fall.

At some point, though, strength in the smartwatches business will overtake weakness in the basic activity trackers business. When that happens, revenue growth will inflect into positive territory, margins will head higher, and FIT stock could rally.

But, the question is: When will that happen?

Not now. Not next quarter. But, maybe in the back-half of the year, when management expects smartwatch revenue to make up a majority of total revenue.

As such, here and now, Fitbit is in the basket of companies that should disappear. But, if the smartwatch business takes off, this company could quickly jump into the Foot Locker and Pandora basket of companies making a big comeback.

As of this writing, Luke Lango was long FL, AMZN, and AAPL.

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