American Apparel and Blackberry Rise, Pier 1 Imports and Rite Aid Get Slammed Thursday

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Jun 19, 2014 at 11:00PM

The Dow only gained 15 points Thursday, as investor excitement over Federal Reserve stimulus from Wednesday faded.

1. American Apparel stock surges after creepy CEO fired
Just like your folks used to say, all press is good press. Shares of west coast hipster clothing brand American Apparel (NYSEMKT:APP) surged 7% Thursday on word that the controversial CEO and founder, Dov Charney, was kicked out by the board following sexual harassment lawsuits from employees, and his bizarre reaction to those suits.

Charney founded the company in 1998 as a T-shirt store, then turned it into a racy-themed clothier with the deepest V-necks, the most fun leotards, and very sexually charged marketing. The IPO was $8.00 per share in 2005, but the stock is down to $0.68 now.

"Put me in a cage," said Charney after some of the allegations. The (now former) CEO also added that his "biggest weakness" is himself. So the Board is obliging, and taking the Made-in-America company out of his hands, and is upgrading the current CFO to be the interim CEO.

The takeaway is that American Apparel may make the softest tank top shirt for you to rip in half during a late night rave, but being a shareholder hasn't been easy. American Apparel barely survived a major sales slowdown just five years ago, then manufacturing issues almost bankrupted the company in 2010. Recently, it had to fire 25% of its workforce for being illegal immigrants. Investors were relieved Thursday to get rid of the questionable Mr. Charney.

2. Blackberry climbs after shockingly turning a profit
It was based on an accounting technicality, but maker of primitive smartphone devices Blackberry (NASDAQ:BBRY) announced a small profit in its first quarter. A big real estate sale and a tax return (billion dollar companies love them as much as college students), helped push Blackberry into the green.

And the honesty award goes to new CEO John Chen. Every positive nugget of info was disclaimed with something like, "but we're still in rough shape, here," in his best Canadian accent. Blackberry sold more phones than last quarter -- the sobering disclaimer was that 1.6 million phones sold was way down from a year ago (and Apple sold 43 million iPhones last quarter). BBRY sales are horrible in the U.S., but low-cost phones are doing OK in less-developed markets.

Cash is king, and Blackberry brought in more than it spent in the quarter, partially reversing a year-long depletion of cash. This also probably pleased the handful of rap musicians in its investor base who are asking the board, where's my money?

It's one small step, and some investors think the bottom might have been reached after years of decline. Cost cuts are starting to boost margins, and the company seems to be acting, well, smart. It's opened its BBM messaging service to Android and iOS users, and is focusing more on its software since its phones are lame. The stock boomed 10% Thursday for a change. Mr. Chen doesn't want to mislead you though – much still needs to be done to "fix" Blackberry.

3. Pier 1 Imports stock drops on poor earnings
If you're decorating your home, and you're living in the 21st century, then odds are you haven't been stocking up on furnishings at Pier 1 Imports (NYSE:PIR). Shares of the decorative retailer dropped more than 12% Thursday after Pier 1's quarterly revenue rose only 6% from last year, to $419.06 million, below the $422.81 million analysts expected.

Looking forward, it's all about the e-commerce game to Pier 1 execs. The company is putting some serious faith in its online sales strategy, with projections for e-commerce sales to reach $200 million in 2015, and $400 million the year after. Hopefully, all those future customers won't be completely won over by Restoration Hardware by then.

The takeaway is that the problem has been the pesky spring retail environment. Since the brutal winter kept foot traffic from stores, retailers have been turning to big-time seasonal discounts to unload inventory -- and those low prices are seriously cutting into the profit margins for Pier 1.

4. Rite Aid suffers brutal 1st quarter
Someone get those Rite Aid (NYSE:RAD) shareholders a boatload of Advil. Shares of the nation's third-largest drugstore chain fell more than 4% Thursday on an unimpressive earnings report -- although first-quarter revenue gained 3%, to $6.29 billion, thanks to growing pharmacy sales. Profits dropped 55% on higher-than-expected drug costs.

The takeaway is that Rite Aid had been going through a rebirth phase -- as recently as 2012, the stock was trading below $1 per share. Since then, the company has shutdown unhealthy stores and fixed up its balance sheet, helping the stock gain nearly 130% in the last year.

As originally published on

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