Engaged couples struggle to navigate Bed Bath & Beyond’s ailing wedding registry system. Suppliers strive to establish new business partnerships. Landlords quickly conclude contracts for rental agreements for large areas that have suddenly become vacant. On TikTok, a shopper’s daily trips to a Manhattan store have found an open-minded audience.
Following Bed Bath & Beyond’s recent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the dissolution of the 52-year-old homewares giant has prompted frustration, grief and a race to capitalize on its demise.
CC Manstrom is someone who feels let down. Since completing her wedding list at the retailer in January, she has seen a majority of the 30 items on the list slowly become unavailable. When her great-aunt visited a store in Fargo, North Dakota this month, she was told the retailer could no longer keep track of what had been purchased through the register. Ms Manstrom is now concerned she could receive several George Foreman grills or baking sets as gifts.
The retailer also stopped redeeming credit notes, meaning Ms Manstrom lost the $60 credited to her for gifts purchased but not available. She was unable to get a customer service agent on the phone and when she went to her local store, the agents were unable to help her.
“It’s frustrating,” said Mrs. Manstrom, 25. “It’s a new task to deal with on the wedding checklist.”
As a replacement, Ms Manstrom and her fiancé, whose wedding is scheduled for July 23, decided to set up another register on Amazon.
Julie Strider, a spokeswoman for Bed Bath & Beyond, said the retailer is looking for a third-party partner to transfer customer data so shoppers can complete their registrations. She added that customers would still be able to view and download existing registration data.
Meanwhile, other companies are stepping in to fill the gap for the newly engaged couple. Etsy released a wedding listing May 10 and said thousands of couples had signed up. Zola, an online registration company, has received “several hundred emails” from couples asking for their Bed Bath & Beyond registrations to be ported, said Emily Forrest, a spokeswoman for the company.
Competitors to Buy Buy Baby, which is owned by Bed Bath & Beyond and also going into liquidation, are also benefiting. Babylist, an online registry company, said the number of registries created on its platform in the past few weeks since Bed Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy was 35 percent higher than a year ago. More than 1,200 registration accounts have been transferred to the site, said Natalie Gordon, chief executive officer of the company.
The providers Bed Bath & Beyond and Buy Buy Baby have revised their strategies in recent months. Many were holding back inventory and making fewer resources available to the retailer as it attempted to devise a turnaround plan. However, as Bed Bath & Beyond is known for its ability to carry a large range of products, it continued to attract smaller companies trying to increase their profile.
“I do think some brands are missing out on some opportunities,” said Steve Greenspon, chairman of the International Housewares Association and chief executive officer of homewares brand Honey-Can-Do, which ceased selling Bed Bath & Beyond last year.
Christina Carbonell and Galyn 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 clothing hit the shelves in April last year, they felt the impact of the retailer’s financial difficulties. In August, as Bed Bath & Beyond rolled out its turnaround plan, Buy Buy Baby canceled its order from Primary, along with several other suppliers. In the stores, they found that inventory was low.
That experience prompted the founders to focus on becoming profitable without relying on Buy Buy Baby partnership sales, which accounted for about 10 percent of their business, they said.
“For the next wholesale partnership, I would be more inclined to start small and learn and build on that learning than go big right away,” said Ms. Carbonell.
Overstock.com, the online retailer known for selling larger furniture like sofas and beds, is using this moment to woo former Bed Bath & Beyond suppliers. During the second half of 2022, Overstock steadily expanded its range of pots and pans and coffee makers from Keurig and Mr. Coffee.
“Today, Bed Bath & Beyond suppliers continue to seek alternative distribution channels and are expanding their footprint with us,” Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson said in an interview. “While others are struggling, more and more people are willing to sell products to us because they need distribution.”
Other retailers use Bed Bath & Beyond’s proprietary tools to engage the shoppers they’re leaving behind. The Container Store, Big Lots and local department store Boscov’s have said they will redeem the big blue coupons even if Bed Bath & Beyond no longer accepts them. It’s likely that these once-ubiquitous business cards will be around for some time to come.
While the strategy of embracing a now-failing competitor’s coupons is intriguing, it probably generates more buzz than sales, said Kelly Goldsmith, a marketing professor at Vanderbilt University.
“Will it necessarily increase your sales directly? Probably not,” said Ms Goldsmith. “But it’s a good way to remind people that you’re out there and that you’re available if they need a replacement for Bed Bath & Beyond.”
For now, some Bed Bath & Beyond stores remain open, and shoppers are keeping a close eye on liquidation sales. Since the bankruptcy announcement, Ellie Maeda has made it a habit to go to the last Bed Bath & Beyond location in Manhattan after the doors open each day to monitor the latest discounts and share them with her 5,400 followers on TikTok.
In her contributions, she provides information on the products that are still in good stock (coffee pods and meal sets) and on the new product ranges (cleaning systems and Breville mixers). She bemoans the goods that aren’t cheap enough to buy yet (KitchenAid mixer and linens).
“I’m just a girl with a dream that’s 40 percent manifesting,” said Ms. Maeda, 27. “I want everyone to get what they want so badly. Hopefully, if we all wait and see together, sales will get a little better.”
Amazon, Walmart, Target and Kohl’s are expected to be the retailers who will benefit the most if Bed Bath & Beyond closes its doors for good. Though they may see an increase in sales, some analysts warn that not all of the bankrupt retailer’s sales will be picked up by its competitors. The market for household goods could shrink.
“People who have really, really shopped aren’t going to shop anywhere else,” said Dave Marcotte, senior vice president of Kantar Consulting. “A lot of money disappears on the way.”
That was the case when Circuit City filed for bankruptcy in 2009, he said.
One notable difference between the Bed Bath & Beyond bust and the bust of retailers during the 2008 downturn is that it is unlikely to leave many empty stores in its wake.
In the weeks since Bed Bath & Beyond announced it would close its 480 stores by the end of June, Brandon Svec, who studies retail analytics at real estate firm CoStar, has watched potential tenants flock to sign leases for the retailer’s locations, which is exciting. Demand is so great that some locations will never make it to the open market as landlords and tenants negotiate directly, he said.
Grocers like Natural Grocers, discount 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 was vacated. Canadian Tire this month paid $1.6 million to acquire ten former Bed Bath & Beyond locations.
In some cases, the locations where Americans’ waning obsession with brick-and-mortar retail was based are making way for a new favorite pastime: landlords are moving pickleball gyms to old Bed Bath & Beyond stores.
“There are many good properties,” said Mr. Svec. “There will be some locations that will take a little longer to sell. But overall, from a market perspective, this seems like a good time to do so.”