retail watch | Aug 31, 2022 |
Can a new plan bring Bed Bath & Beyond back from the brink?

Is it enough?

That’s the big question investors, suppliers, employees and customers will be asking following the release of Bed Bath & Beyond’s new strategic plan, which the company laid out this morning. Encompassing merchandising, finances, operations and executive structure, the strategy is designed to keep the troubled big-box retailer afloat and out of bankruptcy.

But does it give Bed Bath the financial footing it needs to turn itself around? On Wednesday morning, the answer from Wall Street was: Maybe not. The company’s stock crashed as much as 30 percent at the opening bell, then rebounded to a 20 percent drop by late morning. (Even at that level, share prices remained up 80 percent for the month of August in what has been a wild, meme-infused roller coaster ride.)

First and foremost, Bed Bath must determine whether it has the funds to remain in business. Several new financing deals will provide it with $1.13 billion in credit and cash on hand, and there could be another $1 billion if the announced issuance of up to 12 million new shares sells out at current prices. But let’s do the math: Last quarter, the company burned through about $325 million to cover losses. Not considering the possible outcome of the stock sale, at that rate, it would have enough money to get through at least three more quarters, taking it into early spring 2023.

That’s good news for vendors, some of whom have said privately that they have cut off the retailer from any new orders pending payment for overdue invoices. Bed Bath & Beyond executives said they have been in touch with key suppliers to reassure them of their financial position, though at least three vendors contacted in a random sampling—including two who would probably be among the brand’s top suppliers—said they haven’t met with the retailer yet.

In past retail bankruptcies, suppliers have often pushed companies into filing, so getting them on board would seem to be a priority for Bed Bath & Beyond right now. If the money is there and suppliers feel confident enough to continue shipping, then all eyes will be on the company’s merchandising plan going forward. The owned brands that were such a big part of its former strategy are being dialed back: Three of the nine are being axed, and inventory levels on the rest are being scaled back by 20 percent.

In their place will come a renewed focus on national brands, several of which company officials said would be on store shelves for the Christmas selling season. The rest will be phased in as Bed Bath & Beyond returns to its previous positioning as a place to shop for well-known brand names. The company also hopes that its balance sheet will look better after some big cuts in capital spending, SG&A and its store fleet—150 locations will be shuttered, starting over the next few months and continuing for several subsequent quarters.

There are also plans for a fall marketing campaign based around the theme “Welcome Home, Welcome Back,” continued expansion of its Welcome Rewards membership program (now at 5 million members) and the retention of its BuyBuy Baby banner as a growth vehicle. Taken together, they are expected to help in the revitalization of the company.

These are aggressive, though somewhat predictable, moves, and they come fairly quickly compared to other troubled retailers’ strategies in the face of similar situations. Those are all good things. On the flip side, there is still no broad strategy to reinvigorate customers to come shop in its stores and website. And the brand finds itself in a home furnishings segment that has been decidedly soft for much of this year as consumers return to out-of-home spending patterns.

Taking the pluses and minuses together, today’s news should put to rest—at least temporarily—fears of bankruptcy and liquidation. The company’s business runway has been extended, but it remains unclear if the company will ever return to the retail altitudes at which it once flew.

Homepage photo: ©Simone/Adobe Stock

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