How long does the average hangover last—24, 48 hours? It depends on the intensity of the drinking binge, of course. However long, it pales with the post-pandemic hangover many of the companies whose businesses boomed during the early part of the outbreak are going through, as we saw from Peloton’s March-quarter results today. The fitness equipment maker is still grappling with the blunders its former management made by making way too many fancy bikes and treadmills even as demand was waning after Covid-19 lockdowns had ended. That has left it with a costly oversupply of inventory it is now trying to clear with cut-price sales.
And with revenue dropping, and an improvement still a ways off, Peloton’s market cap has shriveled to just $4.4 billion, from as much as $47 billion during the height of the pandemic. But Peloton is hardly alone in misjudging the temporary lift provided by Covid lockdowns and their aftermath. Look at Amazon, which recently acknowledged it overbuilt and overhired on the warehouse and logistics side of the business as it tried to meet soaring demand. Netflix executives admitted a few weeks ago that they also misinterpreted a slowdown in subscriber growth last year, thinking it was just the after-effects of the pandemic streaming boom rather than a more fundamental shift in the market.