What Can We Learn from the New Bed Bath & Beyond?

What Can We Learn from the New Bed Bath & Beyond?

Let’s take a tour of a new Bed Bath & Beyond Store to see what’s good, if there are challenges, and most importantly, what we can learn.

I always preach getting out of the office and into stores, and we do just that in this issue. I wanted to tour a recently remodeled Bed Bath & Beyond. I was curious about the vision of the new leadership team, as well as if there were elements of the refreshed design that might be applicable to other retailers. If you enjoy this tour, we can do more in the future. Let me know!

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Let’s Take a Tour Through the New Bed, Bath and Beyond Prototype Store

When Mark Tritton, a Target alum, joined Bed Bath and Beyond as President & CEO, there was tremendous buzz about the high likelihood of an effective turnaround. His strategy was and is appropriately broad-based, ranging from driving digital sales to the introduction of private brands, redesigning the physical stores, selling off non-core assets, upgrading his leadership team, and more.

One core element of this initiative was upgrading the store design and customer experience.

A Re-imagined Shopping Experience
Store locations have been redesigned to better connect with Bed Bath & Beyond customers. Gone are a dizzying disarray of merchandise stacked high that provided shoppers with 'shopping paralysis', and replaced with lower sightlines, wider aisles and neatly arranged products that inspire customers with a residential experience to help them shop.”

Here are a couple of press photos:

Another key initiative was the introduction of 10 private brands to create higher margin offerings as well as product differentiation from competitors. Here are the 6 that have launched to date:

“Bed Bath & Beyond said the owned brands will create opportunities for market share growth by increasing the availability of opening price points and value-tier products, while also providing elevated, destination products both in stores and online.

Watching sales and the stock price certainly indicate improvements, but like any turnaround, the results need to sustain over time.

“Q1 Comparable sales — which track revenue online and at shops open for at least 12 months — were up 86% compared with 2020 levels, and up 3% on a two-year basis.”

Here is the 1 year stock chart as of 9/8/21:

I wanted to tour a recently remodeled store to see what I could learn from the store design, the inclusion of digital shopping elements, the impact of the new private brands, and the overall consumer experience. Before I jump in, a disclaimer. What I found on this visit was generally disappointing. The physical condition of the store and inventory levels were, I am sure, far below what Bed Bath & Beyond would expect. It’s impossible to know how many of these issues are tied to supply chain and staffing problems. Nor can I tell if these are single location or widespread concerns. So, I am going to try to look beyond the obvious challenges, even though they are what the customer sees, to dig into the design elements. Here we go:

  • The checkout queue is very long with tons of impulse product. While I love impulse merchandising, my sense is too many options create excess browsing, potentially slowing checkout throughput speed.

  • BB&B, to their credit, has tried to minimize excess browsing by creating “blocks” of impulse products.

  • Small plexiglass bins as toppers are OK, but given their size, they use a lot of payroll to keep them full.

  • In the old days, BB&B displayed products (often faked out) “to the ceiling”. That has been replaced with various colored curtains. Unfortunately, these curtains often look very generic & tired, almost like an older-style department store.

  • The idea of an interactive coffee area, with “try-me” displays and a hangout area, is great. However, the sample units were not working (some were missing) and the seating area was empty. I would have thought some online access (tablets) in this area would make sense.

  • The selection of coffee makers and supplies was not dominant (this was the case in many departments), other than K-Cups, which you can buy anywhere. BB&B does not come off as the “coffee authority”.

  • Tabletop, lighting, and art were all less than dominant, even if they were in stock. There simply was not enough space allocated to any of these categories to make a statement.

  • Shelving in lighting was far from flexible (where is selling stock?), as was the coffee grid shelving above.

  • The hanging light fixture in tabletop was gorgeous, yet it was not available for purchase in lighting.

  • Beige curtains above art are even more generic than the blue versions.

  • IOT is a great category to be a leader in. However, the space invested will not allow this to be the case. This could be a superb department for a wall display, using the height for graphics communicating the features of IOT in general as well as core items,

  • The messaging to supplement purchases by visiting the online site is excellent. While it was located in several sections around the store, I would have liked to see it used more aggressively, potentially with QR codes for quick and easy access to the BB&B website.

  • Fall was the best looking department in the store. Note how imagery was interspersed with the blank curtains above the shelving.

In the end, other than the obvious operational challenges, the store design was easier to navigate and shop than BB&B of the prior 10 years (no more narrow aisles). It’s easy to see the Target influence. That said, there were no categories that stood out as “killer offerings”, the new private brands made little, if any, impact from a display and graphics perspective, and the over “pop” of the design was lacking. My sense it the BB&B team have developed a prototype that is a solid starting point, but needs numerous adjustments prior to rollout.

What are your thoughts?

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Quotes of the Week:

"Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten" - Aldo Gucci, 1938

“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.” – Henry Ford

“A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.”  - General George Patton