Bed Bath & Beyond: What Went Wrong?

March 8, 2023

Retail is fascinating because it truly puts marketers closer to the consumer. There are so many variables and levers to pull to get it right. As we watch the slow-motion demise of Bed Bath & Beyond, it’s worth taking a close look at what went wrong. After all, they have great products and certainly a variety of them. Their stores are well-lit, merchandised and in convenient locations. Their biggest rival, Linens ‘n Things, is out of the picture. 

Quite simply, they abdicated their brand for price, training customers to expect 20% off every day of the week. This was their only strategy and message. This constant drum beat of price point did not allow them to create any messaging around their brand or those they carry. Ask yourself, what is the company’s mission, vision and voice? Compare their approach to a retailer like Target, which places a greater emphasis on customer experience. Target has positioned itself as a destination with variety and proprietary product lines that are perceived to have high value without being the lowest price.

What did BB&B’s 20% savings actually add to its bottom line? What if they had taken even part of these funds and instead invested in employee staffing, training and a customer experience specialist? They missed a real opportunity post-COVID to invite customers back to experience the new and improved Bed Bath & Beyond — with an emphasis on the beyond!

Imagine if BB&B had embraced digital marketing to not only connect with consumers on offers, but build a relationship based on products satisfying lifestyle needs — home organization, cooking, home décor and college dorm room decorating. All of these are powerful topics that garner a huge amount of interest.

Concentrating just 20% of their efforts on this would probably have netted them a large return on investment. Not to mention the consumer intelligence they could have gleaned from this data, retargeting them with messaging on products they showed interest in — while cultivating brand loyalty to weather market conditions. Yes, there is always an option to offer special discounts when needed to drive incremental sales. But it is doing them only occasionally, not predictably, that makes them special. Cost-cutting is not brand-building.