Meme stocks are once again having a moment, and it's a familiar cast of stock tickers that are seeing sizable gains during this sultry Monday on Wall Street.
For starters, shares of GameStop and AMC are both up around 8 and 11 percent, respectively, as mentions of the companies surged on the Reddit forum r/wallstreetbets, according to social media tracker Ape Wisdom. But most surprising to non-Redditors is the nearly 40 percent rise in the price of Bed Bath & Beyond, which has long been sort of a third wheel to the careening tricycle that is $GME and $AMC.
What's so surprising about more meme stock shenanigans in 2022? Well, there's been very little positive news from the home goods retailer lately. Same-store sales are down 24 percent year-over-year, online sales are down 21 percent, and private label sales are down 27 percent, according to its latest earnings report.
This comes as Bed Bath & Beyond navigates the same choppy waters that other major retailers are struggling in. As consumer spending has shifted away from durable goods, like furniture and electronics, and toward services, retailers have found themselves saddled with too much inventory, which they then have to sell off at a discount.
Walmart and Target are in a similar situation, but they came into the current downturn in a much stronger position. Bed Bath & Beyond has struggled in recent years with a turnaround strategy that has mostly failed to get the company back on track.
So why the sudden interest from r/wallstreetbets, where mentions of Bed Bath & Beyond shot up more than 200 percent over the past 24 hours? In many ways, the explanation is familiar. The stock is heavily shorted, and as retail investors pile in, the short positions are forced to cover their position. This is called a short squeeze, and it's exactly what happened with GameStop during the first meme stock bonanza in early 2021.
The less-technical explanation is also familiar. Meme stock investors are once again invoking the name of arguably their favorite person: GameStop board chair Ryan Cohen.
'I Invest in People'
It was the announcement in August 2020 that Cohen, who made his name as the founder of online pet supplier Chewy, had a 10 percent stake in GameStop that first got retail investors excited about the stock.
According to those early champions, Cohen's expertise in building an online retail empire was exactly what the struggling brick-and-mortar video game retailer needed. Of course, the GameStop buzz eventually took on a life of its own, but in the beginning, at least, there was an actual business-based argument for the enthusiasm of retail investors.
In this latest episode of meme stock movement, Cohen's name is once again coming up.
Back in March, Cohen revealed that his firm, RC Ventures, had a 10 percent stake in Bed Bath & Beyond. Soon after, he started lobbying publicly for the company to make some changes, including lowering its executive compensation, focusing on core products over launching private labels, and exploring a sale of its buybuy BABY chain.
The news didn't immediately send the stock price soaring, but the activist pressure did get the company to strike a deal allowing RC Ventures to choose three new board members, who would then explore some of Cohen's recommendations.
While Cohen's interest in the company didn't produce instant meme stock glory, his most gung-ho supporters on r/wallstreetbets still took notice.
"With GME as far and away, my primary holding, I am, and have been HEAVILY invested in Ryan Cohen," wrote Reddit user TheDude0007 in a post on Monday. "As an investor, I do not invest in companies with the conviction in which I invest in people."
Naturally, the user explained, Cohen's "acquisition of equity in $BBBY caught my attention, and it soon became immediately clear that this was possibly the deepest value stock on the market."
Only time will tell if TheDude0007 is correct about that, but there have been multiple hints that Cohen's influence on the company is being felt.
For instance, Bed Bath & Beyond announced last week that it's dropping one of its private label brands, Wild Sage. It also said publicly as recently as June that it was still open to selling its baby product chain — both things that Cohen has advocated for.
In addition, the company replaced CEO Mark Tritton earlier this summer — a move that many Redditors interpreted as Cohen getting exactly what he wanted.
In other words, they might just be crazy, but at least they're consistent.