The colossal collapse of Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) this week in the wake of news that Kmart and Sears will be closing more than 100 stores was harmful to a lot of investors’ portfolios. SHLD stock gave up more than 25% in one day as a result, pushing down the year-to-date loss to an ugly 55% in 2011.
So, Sears was the worst investment ever this year, right?
Wrong. Investors just had to know how to be on the right side of SHLD shares when the bottom fell out — and how to profit. Consider that as of the first of December, a whopping 40% of the “float” — that is, the amount of Sears Holdings stock that actually is available for trading on the public market — was held by short-side traders. That means more than a few folks made a tidy sum on the big move down Tuesday.
This kind of short-selling can be risky and is not for everyone. Read here for complete details on the ins and outs of these trades. But if you’re comfortable with the risk and want to take action, consider these three stocks with massive short interest that could go the way of Sears very soon:
Zagg Inc. (NASDAQ:ZAGG) is an acronym for Zealous About Great Gadgets. This company makes accessories for smartphones, laptops and the like — a seemingly bulletproof business, considering everyone and their brother has one of those little sleeves for their iPhone.
Except there are signs momentum might be waning. Competition is fierce, and expensive charges related to the acquisition of competitor iFrog weighed on earnings this summer, with shares plummeting from $15 to just $7.50 currently.
The current short interest in ZAGG stock is a hefty 45% as of the beginning of December — even more than Sears saw before its crash. Granted, the August volatility had a lot to do with declines. And yes, revenues continue to soar, percentage-wise. The company has gone from $5 million in annual revenue for fiscal 2007 to about $150 million projected for fiscal 2011 — but let’s be honest, that kind of mammoth growth simply can’t happen again. Not unless Zagg can crank out $4.5 billion in sales by 2015.
Momentum stocks like Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR) show what happens when share prices outpace expectations. The bears are sharpening their claws on Zagg right now.
Barnes & Noble
If you think Sears was the no-brainer short of the century, here’s another one — Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS). The company has managed to outlast its defunct rival, Borders, and has projected a return to profitability in a year or so thanks to revenue that actually has risen substantially since 2009 lows. B&N might not be disappearing with these improvements to its business, and a lack of another big bookstore competitor (I’m talking brick-and-mortar, not Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), of course).
But in the short term, short-selling is the order of the day. BKS stock had almost 50% short interest as of Dec. 1.
If you think Sears was a clear loser based on broader business troubles and consumer weakness, Barnes & Noble might be a logical short-side play for you too. Many other investors seem to think so, judging by the short interest.
Sodastream (NASDAQ:SODA) manufactures “home beverage carbonation systems” — in plain English, they allow you to pour a fountain drink without going to a restaurant. It’s delicious, cost-effective and fun to use Sodastream gear. But short-side traders are tasting a bubble here. As of Dec. 1, SODA stock was seeing a full 60% of its float held short.
Why? Well, Sodastream has been public for less than a year and remains right at its IPO price around $33 after a run-up to almost $80 in July and a spectacular crash. There isn’t a very long history of earnings and revenue, so investors are uncertain of growth. And that old cautionary tale of Green Mountain and its Keurig coffee machines or Crocs (NASDAQ:CROX) footwear crops up — prompting the question of whether SODA is a fad stock that is ready to hit a ceiling.
The bears aren’t always right, but the crowd is betting strongly against upside moves in this pick right now.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.