One of last year's worst-performing IPOs is sinking again in 2018. Shares of Blue Apron (APRN 12.64%) have surrendered more than two-thirds of their value since the gourmet meal-kit provider went public at $10 in June.
Blue Apron has had a rocky first eight months of trading. Decelerating sales, a cutthroat marketplace, and changes at the top have weighed on its stability as an investment. The first big test for Blue Apron this year comes on Tuesday morning when it reports financial results for the fourth quarter. A strong showing can get Blue Apron back on track, even if it has to more than triple just to get back to its IPO price. The real risk is that the situation can continue to deteriorate, so let's go over a few of the things that can go wrong.
1. Negative growth can get worse
Blue Apron went public after posting 42% year-over-year revenue growth in the first quarter of last year. Investors thought they were buying into a growth stock, but business was decelerating quickly. When revenue rose a mere 18% for the second quarter -- its first financial report as a public company -- and slowed to 3% in the third quarter, investors knew that they were taken for a ride.
It's getting worse. Blue Apron's guidance for the fourth quarter that we'll be earning about on Tuesday calls for revenue to decline by 12% to 22% since the prior year's showing. Business was slowing, and now it's going the wrong way. Blue Apron stock will continue to slide if sales keep falling and its outlook only gets worse.
2. There are too many slices in this pie
The meal-kit delivery market may be growing, but it's getting harder to stand out. Blue Apron closed out the third quarter with 856,000 active customers -- a decent number -- but this is a sequential decline from the second quarter. The average order volume and the number of orders placed per customer also experienced a sequential dip.
There are too many new players that want in on this niche. There may come a time when Blue Apron becomes a buyout candidate as grocery giants and e-tail behemoths square off for the foodie land grab, but for now, it's stuck in a cutthroat climate that will keep markups honest and players largely unprofitable.
3. New leadership may not help
It's been a wild rookie year for Blue Apron. We've seen a hiring freeze over the summer evolve into layoffs later in the year. A new fulfillment center ran into some delays and then initial operating hiccups. In November, Blue Apron announced that its CFO would take over as CEO.
Tuesday morning's earnings call will give new CEO Brad Dickerson his first opportunity at the helm to address analysts and investors. If the market doesn't buy into his vision and turnaround strategy, it could be a long year for Blue Apron.