WeightWatchers shifts strategy towards prescribing medications amid stock drop

WeightWatchers pivots to prescription weight loss amid a 60% stock drop, facing stiff competition and market evolution.

By Alex P. Chase

3/6, 07:40 EST
Eli Lilly and Company

Key Takeaway

  • WeightWatchers shifts strategy towards prescribing medications like Ozempic, moving away from traditional weight loss methods amid a 60% stock drop this year.
  • Faces stiff competition in the prescription weight-loss market from startups and pharmaceutical giants, challenging its turnaround efforts.
  • Despite financial pressures, optimistic about growth in its prescription business and subscriber increase, reflecting industry trends towards holistic obesity treatment.

WeightWatchers' Strategic Shift

WeightWatchers, now renamed, is undergoing a significant transformation in its business strategy, shifting towards a clinical approach that includes prescribing medications like Ozempic and Zepbound. This move marks a departure from its previous emphasis on self-restraint and exercise for weight loss, as the company pivots to embrace the GLP-1 craze in the weight-loss industry.

The company's financial situation is currently challenging, with its stock plummeting over 60% this year and facing high leverage ratios. WeightWatchers' forecasted revenue for the year falls below Wall Street estimates, indicating the urgent need for a turnaround in its operations. Despite these hurdles, the company has seen success in its prescription business, with clinic subscribers growing significantly in the fourth quarter.

Competitive Landscape and Market Challenges

WeightWatchers faces stiff competition in the prescription weight-loss market from digital health startups like Noom, Ro, and Calibrate, as well as established pharmaceutical companies like Eli Lilly. Analysts highlight the competitive nature of the industry and the transition away from traditional workshop revenues as potential headwinds for WeightWatchers in the near term.

Stephanie Davis, an analyst at Barclays, points out the challenges ahead for WeightWatchers, emphasizing the need for a strategic shift amidst a competitive landscape and evolving market dynamics. The increasing demand for GLP-1 drugs, coupled with affordability concerns for consumers, poses additional obstacles for the company to navigate.

Growth Prospects and Industry Trends

Despite the current financial pressures and market challenges, WeightWatchers remains optimistic about the growth potential of its prescription business. The company's focus on cross-selling to existing subscribers shows promise, with expectations of significant subscriber growth in the coming year. The shift towards pharmaceutical interventions in weight management reflects broader industry trends towards a more holistic approach to obesity treatment.

WeightWatchers' evolution to adapt to changing consumer needs and industry dynamics underscores its resilience as a brand. The company's strategic realignment towards clinical services and prescription medications signals a commitment to innovation and addressing evolving market demands.

Street Views

  • Stephanie Davis, Barclays (Bearish on WeightWatchers):

    "This is a very competitive area, and it’s not like they are the only game in town. And in the meantime, you have a transition from a sunsetting product, as they move away from workshop revenues. You’ll probably see more headwinds than tailwinds this year."