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Stock surges 9.6% as iRobot says sales of home-cleaning robots are up

It’s a reversal of fortune for a business that had worried pandemic would bring losses

In 2016, iRobot CEO Colin Angle showed a Roomba vacuum in a hallway decorated with the company's patents at its Bedford headquarters.
In 2016, iRobot CEO Colin Angle showed a Roomba vacuum in a hallway decorated with the company's patents at its Bedford headquarters.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The work-from-home trend, it turns out, is putting more home-cleaning robots to work. Bedford-based iRobot Corp. said it is seeing much stronger than expected sales this spring, prompting investors to vacuum up the stock on Monday.

Previously, iRobot expected second-quarter revenue to be down from the $193 million it reported for the first quarter, because of concerns about the pandemic and the related global economic slowdown.

Strike that. The company now expects at least $260 million in revenue for the second quarter, as its premium floor-cleaning robots, such as the Roomba i7 vacuums and Braava jet m robot mops, fly off the shelves in the United States and Japan.

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By the end of the day, the stock was up 9.6 percent to close at $82.39 a share. That compares to about $49 at the start of the year.

“Maintaining a clean home has become a higher priority for many consumers as COVID-19 has forced people to spend more time in their homes,” iRobot chief executive Colin Angle said in a business update provided by the company on Monday.

Angle noted that the company’s robots enable their owners to focus more on other priorities in the house — which, for many consumers, now include working from home, child care, and home-schooling.

In particular, iRobot’s quarterly revenue in the United States is expected to grow by the mid-single digits, on a percentage basis, from the same quarter a year ago. International revenue, meanwhile, will decline slightly as slow sales in Europe offset solid growth in Japan.

The company now anticipates a return to operating profitability in the second quarter of 2020, largely because of the surprising revenue increase and, to a lesser extent, cost controls. (It previously expected a sizable operating loss.)

In April, iRobot said it was cutting 70 jobs, or 5 percent of its workforce, and shelving development plans for its lawn-mowing robot, to curb expenses amid the pandemic. At the time, the company also signaled that it expected revenue to fall in the second quarter from the first one.

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The company remained cautious on Monday: There is still “considerable uncertainty” about the prospects for an economic recovery in different parts of the world, Angle said, making it tough to predict order levels for the year. For that reason, the company still expects its 2020 revenue to fall short of the $1.2 billion in revenue in 2019 that it reported Feb. 5, just weeks before the pandemic began seizing up various nations’ economies. At that time, iRobot said it anticipated at least $1.3 billion in revenue for its 2020 fiscal year.


Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.