As many brick and mortar retail businesses struggle to survive in the age of online commerce Redditors launched a coordinated digital attack to catapult shares of GameStop. Wall Street analysts predict that Redditors will try this tactic on several other struggling retailers,specifically Fashion retailers. Already, Express, a mall mainstay, has seen its share price more than double this week. J.Jill and Chico’s are also ripe targets, analysts say. The payoff for the Reddit crew remains elusive: in theory, short sellers will have to buy stock to exit their money-losing positions.
So far, few have done so, no doubt betting they can outlast their assailants. Some new shareholders in GameStop, Express and other much-shorted stocks say they have a genuine belief in the future of brick-and-mortar retail, or that these companies can pull off a digital transformation that revives sales. For fashion brands being targeted, share price fluctuations will have little immediate impact on operations. But in many respects, the dynamic of small investors taking on market giants – and possibly winning – is unheard of.
The trend of amateur investors organising stock stampedes on social media will likely persist as GameStop continues to surge, said B. Riley FBR analyst Susan Anderson. For example, Express shares spiked after Twitter personality Will Meade drew parallels between the apparel chain and GameStop. He speculated that Express could pull off an e-commerce turnaround and cited a recent $140 million cash injection from Sycamore Partners and Wells Fargo. Express shares jumped from $1.79 at the end of last week to as high as $4.44 on Monday – the stock’s highest value since the start of the pandemic – before giving up some of those gains to end Tuesday at $3.04. One WallStreetBets user told BoF they were betting that brick-and-mortar chains could boost digital sales and that the market would someday value them like e-commerce stocks.
That’s an optimistic scenario to put it generously, analysts say. Express, for one, is “haemorrhaging cash” as the pandemic saps demand for work apparel, Redding said in a recent research note.
WRITTEN BY: Majid Alhusseini