What to Watch Next Week: Angry Activists, Humbled Big Brands, and Gamer Gewgaws


Next week is going to be as eventful as ever on Wall Street. Watch for angry activist investors, gaming unveilings, and big brands being humbled by the numbers they have to report. Here are some of the items that will help shape the week.

1. Commence whip-cracking at Cracker Barrel: Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores (CBRL) is known for its rustic gift shops and heaping servings of buttered biscuits between courses of Southern vittles. The inviting row of rocking chairs on its wooden front porch -- complete with checkerboard games waiting to get started -- is another signature feature.

Next week won't bring up those same carefree images, though. For starters, analysts expect Cracker Barrel to earn just $0.96 a share during the seasonally potent summer quarter, short of the $1.14 a share it rang up a year earlier.

More importantly, Biglari Holdings' (BH) Sardar Biglari has amassed a 9.3% stake in the company as he takes an activist role. His first shot at the chain was to ask it to break up its retail and restaurant performance so investors have a clearer snapshot of the business. It's a soft lob, but this activist shareholder battle is far from over. Expect the company to be asked about the matter during its conference call.

2. Blue and BlackBerry: BlackBerry continues to lose ground to Android and iPhone handsets in the smartphone market, and that's weighing on parent company Research In Motion (RIMM). After years of growth, earnings are now going the wrong way at Research In Motion.

The Ontario company reports Thursday. The stock has been beaten down so badly over the past year that even a whiff of good news would juice the shares. The numbers -- and more importantly its outlook -- will dictate the stock's direction.

3. There's a fine line between Nintendo and Ninten-don't : A test of gamer relevance comes to Tokyo Tuesday, as Nintendo (NTDOY.PK) hosts a 3DS event.

The Japanese gaming giant will hype some of its upcoming games, announce a few new accessories, and possibly even have a surprise or two up its sleeve. It will need everything in its arsenal to impress a growing army of critics, because the 3DS wasn't selling at the $250 price that it was introduced at back in March. Nintendo had to cut the price down to $169 last month.

It's not a coincidence that Nintendo is staging this event in September, hoping to restart the momentum that it desperately needs if it wants the 3DS to be a hot holiday item.

4. Pier 1 walks the plank: Have you ever wanted to see a 100-bagger? Shares of Pier 1 Imports (PIR) have popped 100-fold since bottoming out at $0.10 a share in March 2009. It's been a fun ride for investors who have gone from a dime to double digits, but it certainly was scary at the beginning.

A stock doesn't trade for penny-jar jingle unless investors think it's likely to go belly up. Pier 1 was in bad shape at the time. It's hard to sell crafty home furnishings when the housing market is crumbling.

Pier 1 reports its latest quarterly results Thursday. After losing a ton of money during the darkest recessionary stretch, the retailer has posted seven consecutive quarterly profits. Extending the streak to eight should be easy after all that Pier 1 has been through.

5. Best Buy used to be better: Things haven't gone well for Best Buy (BBY) lately. Even with Circuit City out of the picture, shoppers still aren't flocking to the blue and yellow the way they used to.

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Earnings and comparable-store sales have fallen in each of the past three quarters. Spoiler alert: Wall Street thinks the streak will stretch to four quarters, projecting that earnings will have fallen 12% in Tuesday's report.

Let's just say that it's hard to sell at retail prices when every shopper -- armed with the same smartphones that they bought at Best Buy a year earlier -- has barcode-scanning apps to let them know where the better bargains can be had.

The digital revolution has also stung, as folks are downloading media instead of buying CDs, books, DVDs, and video games.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Cracker Barrel. The Motley Fool owns shares of Biglari Holdings and Best Buy. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Nintendo and formerly recommended Best Buy.

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