Anyone who ever stepped into the ginormous Bed Bath & Beyond location on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan might recall that the store had just about anything you could ever need when looking for home furnishings. The problem was finding it. The store was cramped, cluttered and ultimately so confusing that shopping there was no pleasure.
That all changed on July 22 with the reopening of the store, which can now be characterized by a different series of “c” adjectives: clean, crisp and clear. The renovation ranks as one of the most dramatic in recent retail memory and largely reflects the big-box chain’s updated merchandising strategy since new management came in some 20 months ago.
At a press preview of the space earlier this week, CEO Mark Tritton said the store, which had closed last December for renovations, now has a “residential” feeling and represents a fresh vision for the company as a whole. Here’s a look at some of the most demonstrable changes.
- Size: The store remains on two levels but has been reduced in size by about 14 percent to 92,000 square feet. It is still the largest store in the Bed Bath & Beyond chain, which is cutting its overall footprint by about 200 stores. An estimated 800 locations will remain when the two-year culling is over.
- SKU count: In the renovation’s most dramatic change, the number of items for sale on the floor has been reduced by 44 percent, reflecting the company’s overall strategy to simplify and reduce the amount of merchandise it offers. Online, there is no such reduction in product, as e-commerce is a growth priority for the chain.
- Display: Gone are the narrow aisles, haphazard floor plans and fixtures stacked to the ceiling. The new store features open sight lines, low fixtures and wider aisles; there are several focal points, including a Casper shop, a SodaStream Bubble Bar, and even a do-it-yourself vacuum cleaner test area with assorted forms of typical household dirt.
- Brands: While national brands still dominate the hard-goods side of the store, the company’s private labels turn up throughout the location—particularly on the lower level, which houses bed and bath. Six such brands have been introduced: some category-specific, like Squared Away for storage, and some cross-category, like Wild Sage, a millennial-tinged home decor mix. More private brands are in the works, and by the end of the three-year rollout, they are projected to account for about a third of overall store sales.
- Omnichannel: A new app allows for easy in-store pickup and home delivery while shopping the store, thanks to new tie-in services. Registers with self-checkout now dominate the purchasing area, which is now centralized with a shared queue. The company reports that self-checkout is the preference of Manhattan shoppers.
- Offerings: The new store features a vastly expanded home decor department, a category that previously had been underrepresented by the chain. Health and beauty consumables—once shown under the company’s Harmon brand but here more integrated into overall branding—are in the back of the store, serving as a destination and a contrast to the typical urban drugstore chain. There are also more laundry and home cleaning products than before. There’s even a small drink and snack area, Café 3B, which is slightly more upscale than its earlier incarnation.
The Chelsea store’s renovation is a preview of what’s coming to another 450 stores slotted for varying degrees of update over the next two and a half years. So far, only about 30 have been completed, primarily in the Houston marketplace, but the company promises more are in the works. Sales results are not being shared yet on those remodeled stores, but if this new Manhattan store is any indication, Bed Bath & Beyond clearly believes that subtraction will be a valuable addition to its business model.
Homepage photo courtesy of Bed Bath & Beyond
Warren Shoulberg is the former editor in chief for several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furnishings and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and been cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. His Retail Watch columns offer deep industry insights on major markets and product categories.