If At-Risk Companies Made New Year's Resolutions ...
Let's go over a few new year's resolutions that publicly traded companies would love to make for 2015.
Things haven't gone well for the world's largest burger chain in 2014. Widening the menu hasn't widened the customer count. In fact, domestic comparable-restaurant sales have fallen in 12 of the past 13 months.
McDonald's is hoping to turn things around in 2015. It is eliminating some of its menu items to simplify its operations. It is also hoping that tech innovations and customized sandwiches boost in-store traffic.
Another big push at McDonald's for the year ahead will be quality. Its image took another hit early in 2014 when a Consumer Reports survey found the chain's signature burgers ranking dead last in terms of taste among the nearly two dozen leading chains.
Resolution for 2015: Win back the consumer.
The world's largest retailer started to show some positive signs as it wraps up its fiscal year. After a couple of years of negative comparable-store sales, it responded with flat comps through the first two quarters of fiscal 2015 before posting a 0.5 percent uptick in its most recent quarter.
It will have to do better than that, of course, but Walmart's improving performance was enough to lift the shares to an all-time high in November. Walmart will need to continue to improve on its store traffic. It will also need to conquer negative perceptions about the way it treats and pays its employees.
Resolution for 2015: Get comps to outpace inflation.
Tesla Motors (TSLA)
Tesla is the cool kid on the block when it comes to electric vehicles. There's no shortage of demand for Tesla's stylish Model S even with its stiff price tag. Elon Musk is on a pedestal as a visionary, and whether it's leading the way in space travel or residential solar power in other ventures, it seems as if there's little that he can do wrong.
The rub for Tesla is that after seeing its stock soar eightfold over the past three years, the stock's valuation can't be justified by the success of its high-end sedan. It will need to ramp up production, and that goes beyond the upcoming Model X crossover, which is priced similarly to the Model S. Musk has been promising a more affordable model coming out in a few years, and that will ultimately be the ticket to bigger gains.
Resolution for 2015: Lay out more concrete plans to take Tesla mainstream.
One of 2014's biggest losers was SodaStream, the company behind the namesake beverage makers that turn ordinary water into flavored soda. It was a market darling when its product hit select retailers four years ago, but fickle consumers have turned on the appliance. Sales in the Americas plunged 41 percent in its latest quarter, and there was even a slight dip in its larger and more established European stronghold.
SodaStream is responding by repositioning its marketing message in 2015. It knows that soft drinks are falling out of favor, so it intends to market its machine as a maker of sparkling water. It's going to be a challenge, but SodaStream doesn't have much of a choice given the trend that started turning against it in the U.S. since the second half of 2013.
Resolution for 2015: Turn U.S. sales around and hope that Europe will follow.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of SodaStream. The Motley Fool recommends McDonald's, SodaStream and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of SodaStream and Tesla Motors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.