Most meme stocks seem to have one notable commonality -- weak competitive moats. GameStop's game stores appeared headed for obsolescence amid increased game downloads. At the same time, movie theater chains like AMC Entertainment face increased competition from other film-watching options.
Now, meme investors have increasingly turned their attention to Blue Apron (APRN). But while intense meme interest can potentially help Blue Apron raise capital, it will likely do little to improve the fundamentals of the meal kit company.
The state of Blue Apron
Blue Apron's June 2017 IPO brought it significant attention. On the surface, healthy, ready-made meals may appeal to an increasingly busy public that wants to eat nutritional foods.
However, when large grocery chains began actively competing with the upstart company, interest in its shares dwindled. Consequently, market listing rules forced its board to pass a 1-for-15 reverse stock split in June 2019 to stay on the exchanges.
Since then, it has enjoyed varying degrees of popularity. Its most profound move in the 2020s was at the beginning of COVID-19-related lockdowns when fearful consumers turned to its meals.
That rally also faded in time. However, Blue Apron stock skyrocketed recently amid a meme-driven short squeeze. Since reaching an intra-day low of $2.27 per share on June 13, it has steadily climbed, approaching the $8 per share range as of the time of this writing.
Also, it recently announced a deal with Walmart. Under the agreement, Blue Apron would abandon its subscription requirements and sell its meals on the Walmart platform. As a result, Blue Apron is now the only meal kit provider on the Walmart.com website, a factor that may have contributed to its appeal as a meme stock.
How Blue Apron fares financially
Since the deal began in June, the effects of the Walmart deal will not appear in an earnings report until the third quarter. However, the most recent financials seem to echo its longtime struggles.
For the first six months of 2022, revenue of $242 million dropped 5% compared with the same period in 2021. This has led to a loss of $62 million in the first half of 2022, 80% more than its loss in the first six months of 2021, as total operating expenses surged 8%.
Also, it may have to issue more shares since it holds only $54 million in cash. Unfortunately, the 35 million shares outstanding today have increased dramatically from the 13.5 million available in the middle of 2020. While its $27 million in long-term debt compares well to its $52 million in stockholders' equity, adding significant debt may run counter to the company's goal of strengthening its balance sheet.
Blue Apron seems to believe its struggles will continue. In the Q2 earnings report, it adjusted its 2022 revenue growth target to between 7% and 13%. It had previously expected revenue growth in the "mid-teens," a change that might lead investors to question how much its Walmart partnership will truly help Blue Apron.
Should I consider Blue Apron?
Given current conditions, investors should probably avoid Blue Apron stock. Indeed, meme investors could take it to unpredictable levels, much as they did with GameStop and AMC. Also, the deal with Walmart could boost revenue.
However, investors need a company to drive sustained, long-term gains. While its chances of survival may have improved significantly, mere existence is rarely enough to draw high levels of reliable investor interest.