Ryan Cohen’s Stock Sale Is No Problem for Bed Bath & Beyond’s True Believers

A stupefying rally in

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.’s

BBBY -16.23%

stock came skidding to a halt last week when one of the company’s biggest shareholders cashed out. 

Now, a crowd of individual investors say they are hoping to ride out the worst of the selloff.

Even as Bed Bath & Beyond slumped Friday in its worst one-day pullback ever, individual investors continued to cheer the stock on social-media platforms like Reddit, Discord and


Many posted emojis of diamonds and hands—internet shorthand for someone who holds steadfast to their investments even when there is rising pressure to sell. Others tagged their posts with “HODL”: hold on for dear life. 

Their message to the world? We aren’t giving up.

Wil Lobach, a 39-year-old investor from New Jersey, said he is hoping to use the selloff as a way to add to his Bed Bath & Beyond holdings. 

He owns more than 250 shares of the struggling retailer. Having scooped them up at an average price of around $6.50, he is still up about 70% on his initial investment. Bed Bath & Beyond shares fell 41% Friday to $11.03.


What is your outlook on meme stocks? Join the conversation below.

Mr. Lobach said the volatility in the stock last week did little to scare him. He also owns stakes in meme stocks

GameStop Corp.


AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.,

both of which are also known for their wild swings. 

“I’m proud of him,” Mr. Lobach said of billionaire investor

Ryan Cohen,

whose sale of his stake triggered the selloff in Bed Bath & Beyond’s shares last week. 

Cohen’s “army is right behind him,” Mr. Lobach added, noting that he supports the sale and believes Mr. Cohen isn’t done with Bed Bath & Beyond yet. “It’s been incredible to be a part of this moment in history.” 

Mr. Cohen, the co-founder of pet-supply retailer

Chewy Inc.

, has developed a devoted following of individual investors, who cheered his rapid ascension last year from activist investor to GameStop chairman. Many individuals piled into Bed Bath & Beyond’s shares after he revealed a sizable stake in the company in March and issued a letter to its board pushing for major changes.

David Simpson, a 30-year-old from Seattle, said he is committed to holding on to his Bed Bath & Beyond investment until at least 2023, by which time he believes the stock will have risen to around $200. 

After years of declining sales, Bed Bath & Beyond is facing an existential crisis. WSJ’s Suzanne Kapner explains why the company has fallen on hard times and looks forward to what is next for the veteran retailer. Photo Illustration: Laura Kammermann/WSJ

He wasn’t deterred by news of Mr. Cohen selling his stake. In fact, he says his conviction in his Bed Bath & Beyond trade has only gotten stronger. He referenced Mr. Cohen’s role in Chewy’s growth from a small startup into a company that would later be acquired by PetSmart for $3.35 billion, a deal that was at the time the biggest e-commerce acquisition ever.

“My instincts tell me the same is true” for Bed Bath & Beyond, Mr. Simpson said, adding that he believes the company will be able to strengthen its financial position by the end of the year.

Bed Bath & Beyond is searching for a $375 million loan to build cash and help pay down debt, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. In June, the company said sales for the current quarter were trending down 20% from the year-earlier period.

Individual investors’ resolve is the latest twist in a meme-stock mania that has endured much longer than many professional investors and analysts could have ever predicted. Some individual investors say they have good reason to believe the shares will spike again.

Many are also continuing to hold out for what they believe will be a massive short squeeze, a phenomenon that occurs when a stock rises so much that investors who bet against it are forced to buy back shares, driving the stock even higher.

At the moment, those betting on the stock face an uphill battle.

On Friday, the selloff hitting Bed Bath & Beyond spread to other meme stocks, with GameStop losing 3.8%, AMC Entertainment falling 6.6% and

Coinbase Global Inc.

shedding 11%. The S&P 500 finished down 1.3%. 

Data also show pressure from short sellers has continued to grow.

Roughly half of Bed Bath & Beyond’s shares that were available to trade Friday afternoon were being shorted, according to

Ihor Dusaniwsky,

head of predictive analytics at S3 Partners, a technology and data analytics firm.

“This has been a roller-coaster week,” Mr. Dusaniwsky said in an email, noting the value of short sellers’ positions was down hundreds of millions of dollars in the first half of the week, only to jump hundreds of millions of dollars on Thursday and Friday.

Wall Street analysts are also warning there could be more pain ahead for shareholders. 

Wedbush Securities analyst

Seth Basham

said he believes Bed Bath & Beyond’s stock should be trading at around $5—55% below where it closed Friday. He cut his rating for the stock to “underperform” from “neutral” in a note after Mr. Cohen made his plans to sell his stake public Wednesday.

Even if the company manages to achieve goals like fixing its inventory and supply-chain problems, its stock has surged so much that the risk-to-reward ratio for investors remains “disproportionately skewed to the downside,” Mr. Basham added.

Bed Bath & Beyond shares are still up 122% for the quarter, compared with the S&P 500, which has risen 12%.

Wells Fargo analyst Zachary Fadem, who covers Bed Bath & Beyond, is holding a price target of $3 for the stock—73% below where it closed Friday.

Among Mr. Fadem’s concerns: Foot traffic at Bed Bath & Beyond’s stores and web traffic on its site seem to be decelerating. The company is also in a financially vulnerable position. It is working with external advisers to try to strengthen its balance sheet.

“We believe the writing is on the wall that BBBY shares have again decoupled from economic reality,” Mr. Fadem said in a note.

There could be more pain ahead for Bed Bath & Beyond shareholders, Wall Street analysts warn.


Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Write to Akane Otani at akane.otani@wsj.com and Caitlin McCabe at caitlin.mccabe@wsj.com

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