It wasn't easy to be a LeapFrog Enterprises (UNKNOWN:LF.DL) investor in 2014. The stock plunged 41% on the year as the maker of electronic learning toys experienced lightening demand for its once popular kid-friendly tablets.
Its first half of fiscal year 2015 has been horrendous, posting back-to-back quarters of 43% declines over the prior year in net sales. Making matters worse, LeapFrog has delivered wider quarterly deficits than Wall Street analysts were targeting.
LeapFrog was a pioneer in making reading and learning fun with its electronic playthings, and for a while it seemed as if it would catch lightning in a bottle again when it introduced the LeapPad learning tablet in 2011. It sold out during the holiday shopping season, leading many to pay two to three times its going rate through reselling exchanges. An updated LeapPad a year later also sold briskly in 2012 -- pushing the shares into the double digits -- but it's been harder for LeapFrog to stand out these days as cheap and kid-friendly versions of Kindle and Samsung tablets have hit the market with more conventional features.
New toys bring new hope
LeapFrog isn't standing still. It entered the fitness tracker market a few months ago with the introduction of LeapBand. It's a cheap wearable with a retail price of $40, encouraging kids to move with 50 different movement challenges. LeapBand is targeting kids between the ages of four and seven with its colorful trackers, probably the ones seeing their parents strapping on Fitbit, Jawbone UP, and other movement-tracking wristbands.
There's a lot of potential with the LeapBand despite its simplistic features. Customer reviews on Amazon.com are very positive, but seeing one of the three LeapBands available for $19.99 doesn't seem all that encouraging.
The other big product out of LeapFrog this fiscal year is LeapTV. It's a bigger play for the console video game market, and it also encourages fitness with its motion-based controller. That should make it a popular choice of parents with young kids that want to encourage active lifestyles for their children, but the $150 price tag could be a deal breaker. Yes, that's cheaper than traditional next-generation consoles. The games also cost about half as much as Xbox One, Wii U, and PS4 games. However, it's hard to get a new gaming platform off the ground.
LeapFrog isn't putting all of its eggs in the new product line baskets. It continues to update its LeapPad tablet and legacy learning toys. Analysts aren't exactly convinced, and last month ROTH Capital Partners became the latest firm to step back from its formerly bullish stance on the stock.
This doesn't mean that LeapFrog doesn't stand a chance. Wall Street's holding out for a small profit during the holiday quarter on a 22% pop in net sales. It then sees a return to annual profitability with modest top-line growth in fiscal year 2016 which starts in April.
LeapFrog has a long way to go before it convinces Mr. Market that a turnaround is afoot. However, achieving consistent profitability and growing its net sales again as market pros now forecast will go a long way to restore faith in the former market darling.