What happened

Shares of Express (NYSE:EXPR), which closed at $4.69 on Friday, opened at $4.73 on Monday and kept climbing, hitting $5.33 just after midday, a rise of 13.6% over the previous trading day. 

CEO Tim Baxter has been bullish on the company's turnaround chances this summer, and that has helped to drive the stock. It also didn't hurt that the company's first-quarter numbers were way up, though it is still losing money: $40.6 million in the first quarter, though that's an improvement compared to the loss of $145.3 million it reported in the year-ago quarter.

In the first quarter of 2021, the company reported sales of $346 million through May 1, up 64% year over year. E-commerce sales were up 40% compared to the same period in 2020. The company said it expects positive cash flow beginning this quarter and positive EBITDA in the third and fourth quarters of 2021.

Customer looking at clothing in a retail store.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Express, a so-called meme stock with plenty of ardent retail investors, has been on a roller coaster ride for a while. The stock's 52-week high was $13.97 and its 52-week low was $0.57.

The stock had fallen more than 15% in the past month and more than 7% of its shares are shorted, which led to a short squeeze Monday with investors piling in.

This isn't the first time the stock has seen a sharp upswing recently. On July 26, it opened at $4.52 and closed at $5.37, a rise of 18.8%.

Now what

Like many retail stocks, Express is hoping to get a big bounce from back-to-school and back-to-office sales this month. The rising number of COVID-19 delta variant cases, however, could lead to delayed school and work reopenings, and that would work against Express.

However, if the company does break into the black later in the year, it's likely to see investors surge back into the stock. In the short term, it's likely the stock will fall back down a bit on Tuesday as a reaction. But long-term trends could be in the company's favor, if in fact it has turned a corner, as Baxter said in the company's first-quarter earnings call.

Perhaps the most positive side to Express is that its brand is still well known. And that has helped it develop a greater online presence that has continued to grow even though the pandemic seemed to be subsiding this spring.