June 12, 2021
When the movie-theater company AMC offered its stockholders free popcorn, it was, in part, embracing its newfound fame as a memestock. But like many other companies, it was also acknowledging how much more important retail investors have become—and how vital it is to woo them into buying and holding stock, and into voting with management in crunch situations.
Five years ago, there were 56 million retail investors in the US, said Jeff Lambert, a veteran in investor relations. Today, thanks to zero-fee trading and apps like Robinhood, “we size the market at 130 million,” he said. Numerous listed firms have seen their shares held by individual investors rise; 80% of AMC stock, for instance, is now owned by retail investors. As a result, Lambert said, corporate executives are newly compelled to think about what these investors might want.