Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP) has a long, difficult road ahead.

The company, which failed in its attempt to merge with rival Staples (NASDAQ:SPLS), has to reconfigure its business at a time when physical stores may be a liability. 

That uncertainty has made investors nervous, and some question the long-term viability of the company. That has generally been a drag on its stock, and has left shares vulnerable to any news being taken as bad news.

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Image source: YCharts.com.

What happened

Office Depot saw its share price drop throughout October, mostly because nothing the company did during that time period gave investors much confidence. A late-September announcement that it was selling its European business was met with yawns, and an Oct. 13 press release detailing that the company won't open on Thanksgiving this year might have dragged its share price down further.

After opening the month at $3.58, shares closed October at $3.15. That's a 12% drop, according to data provided by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

So what

Office Depot hasn't shown a clear direction since federal regulators disallowed the Staples deal. If the company hopes to win back investor confidence, it needs to do more than its recently started offer of Black Friday-like deals throughout November. The chain needs to show it has a plan for the future and a way to stop its negative momentum.

Now what

Office Depot

Image source: OfficeDepot.com

While October was a lousy month for Office Depot shares, things turned around a bit after the company reported its Q3 results on Nov. 2. Sales were down, but the numbers were better than expected, which soon-to-retire CEO Roland Smith celebrated in the company's earnings release.

During the third quarter we made substantial progress on the opportunities identified in our new three-year strategic plan...We are recovering quickly from the disruption caused by the protracted Staples acquisition attempt, and I'm very pleased with both our progress and financial results. Importantly, I believe we have the right strategy in place to deliver shareholder value.

It's too early to tell whether that's true, but shares perked up after the news was released, closing at $3.58 on Nov. 3. That's exactly where shares opened October, and it's probably not the end of volatility for the company until it can string together a few successful quarters to show it has actually turned a corner.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. He sometimes makes copies or faxes things from Office Depot, but rarely buys anything. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.