Engaged couples struggle to navigate Bed Bath & Beyond’s stuttering wedding registry system. Suppliers are scrambling to create new business partnerships. Landlords are quickly closing deals on leases of suddenly vacated big fund sites. On TikTok, a shopper’s daily trips to a Manhattan store have found a receptive audience.
After Bed Bath & Beyond’s latest Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the 52-year-old home goods giant’s winding up has left frustration, grief, and a race to capitalize on its demise.
CC Manstrom is one who feels left in the lurch. Since creating her wedding registry with the retailer in January, she’s watched the majority of the 30 items on the list slowly become unavailable. This month, when her great-aunt went to a location in Fargo, N.D., she was told that the retailer could no longer keep track of what was purchased from the registry. Miss Manstrom worries that she might receive several George Foreman roasts or baking sets as gifts.
The retailer has also stopped honoring credits, which means Ms. Manstrom is out of $60 that was put into her account for gifts that were purchased but not available. She was unable to get a customer service representative on the phone, and when she went to her local store, the staff were unable to help.
“It’s frustrating,” said Ms. Manstrom, 25. “It’s a new task you have to tackle on your wedding checklist.”
As a backup, Ms. Manstrom and her fiancé, whose wedding is scheduled for July 23, decided to create another registry on Amazon.
Julie Strider, a spokeswoman for Bed Bath & Beyond, said the retailer was looking for a third-party partner to transfer customer data so shoppers could complete their records. It added that customers are still able to view and download existing registration data.
Meanwhile, other companies are swooping in to fill the void for new entrants. Etsy unveiled a wedding registry on May 10 and said thousands of couples have signed up. Zola, an online record company, has received “several hundred emails” from couples requesting to transfer their Bed Bath & Beyond records, said Emily Forrest, a spokeswoman for the company.
Competitors at Buy Buy Baby, which is owned by Bed Bath & Beyond and is also being liquidated, is also seeing benefits. Babylist, an online record company, said the number of records created on its platform in the past few weeks since Bed Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy was 35 percent higher than it was a year ago. More than 1,200 registration accounts have moved to her site, said Natalie Gordon, the company’s chief executive.
Bed Bath & Beyond and Buy Buy Buy suppliers have revised their strategies in recent months. Many kept inventory and dedicated fewer resources to the retailer as it tried to work through its turnaround plan. However, because Bed Bath & Beyond is known for its ability to carry a wide range of products, it has continued to attract smaller companies trying to raise their profiles.
“I think there will be some missed opportunities for some brands,” said Steve Grinspoon, president of the International Housewares Federation and CEO of home storage brand Honey-Can-Do, which has discontinued sales with Bed Bath & Beyond. last year.
Christina Carbonell and Galen Bernard, founders of gender-neutral clothing brand Primary, are rethinking their in-store strategy as Buy Buy Baby goes out of business. Shortly after their clothes hit the shelves in April of last year, they felt the impact of the retailer’s financial woes. In August, when Bed Bath & Beyond floated its turnaround plan, Buy Buy Baby cut its order with Primary, as it has with several other suppliers. Inside the stores, they saw that the stock of goods was running low.
They said the experience made the founders focus on becoming profitable without relying on sales from the Buy Buy Baby partnership, which accounts for about 10 percent of their business.
“When entering my next wholesale partnership, I will be more inclined to start small and learn and build on that learning rather than expand immediately,” Ms. Carbonell said.
Overstock.com, the online retailer known for selling larger furniture like sofas and beds, is using the moment to court former Bed Bath & Beyond suppliers. In the second half of 2022, Overstock steadily expanded its offering of pots and pans and coffee makers from Keurig and Mr.
“Today, Bed Bath & Beyond suppliers continue to look for alternative distribution channels and expand their footprint with us,” Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson said in an interview. “While others are struggling, more people are willing to sell us products because they need distribution.”
Other retailers use Bed Bath & Beyond’s own tools to win over the shoppers they leave behind. The Container Store, Big Lots and regional department store Boscov’s all said they’ll honor Big Blue coupons even after Bed Bath & Beyond stops accepting them. These once-ubiquitous calling cards will probably still be in circulation for quite some time.
Kelly Goldsmith, a professor of marketing at Vanderbilt University, said that while the strategy of accepting coupons distributed by a failed competitor is an interesting strategy, it likely creates more buzz than sales.
“Will it necessarily directly increase your bottom line? But it’s a good way to remind people that you’re out there, and if they need an alternative to Bed Bath & Beyond, you’re available.”
For now, a number of Bed Bath & Beyond locations remain open, and shoppers are keeping a close eye on the liquidation sales. Since declaring bankruptcy, Ellie Maeda has been going to the recent Bed Bath & Beyond location in Manhattan as soon as the doors open each day to keep an eye on the latest discounts and share with her 5,400 TikTok followers.
In her posts, she gives updates on what’s still well stock (coffee pods and food kits) and new piles of products that are popping up (perfusion systems and Breville blenders). She laments merchandise that isn’t marked enough yet to be purchased (KitchenAid blenders and bed linens).
“I’m just a girl with a dream, and I show 40 percent,” Maeda, 27, said. “I want everyone to get what they want so badly. If we all wait together, hopefully sales will pick up a bit.”
Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kohl’s are expected to be the retailers that benefit the most once Bed Bath & Beyond closes its doors permanently. While they may see sales increase, some analysts warn that not all bankrupt retail sales will be absorbed by competitors. The market for household goods could shrink.
“The people who shop right for them really won’t shop anywhere else,” said Dave Marcotte, senior vice president of Kantar Consulting. “Along the way, a lot of money disappears.”
This was the case when Circuit City filed for bankruptcy in 2009, he said.
One notable difference between Bed Bath & Beyond’s bankruptcy and retailers during the 2008 economic downturn is that it probably won’t leave scores of empty storefronts in its wake.
In the weeks since Bed Bath & Beyond announced it would close 480 stores by the end of June, Brandon Svec, who studies retail analytics at real estate firm CoStar, saw how potential renters swooped in to sign leases for the retailer’s locations as he moved out. Demand is so great, he said, that some sites will never make it to the open market, as landlords and tenants negotiate directly.
Grocers like Natural Grocers, off-price retailers like Burlington, TJ Maxx, and Five Below, and gyms like Crunch Fitness and Urban Air are among the tenants who moved in after Bed Bath & Beyond’s eviction. Canadian Tire paid $1.6 million this month to acquire 10 former Bed Bath & Beyond locations.
In some cases, locations that once housed Americans’ fading obsession with brick-and-mortar retail stores are giving way to a new favorite pastime: landlords relocate pickleball parlors to old Bed Bath & Beyond stores.
“There’s a lot of good real estate out there, said Mr Svec. “Some of the locations are going to take a little longer to sell. But for the most part, this seems like the right time for that to happen from a market perspective.”
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