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New CEO Plots Improved Focus, Strategy For Bed Bath & Beyond

The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Bed Bath & Beyond's new CEO, Mark Tritton, in which he lays out his plans for "remaking the troubled retailer."

A big emphasis, he says, will be on editing the selection - there was simply too much of everything, which led to "purchase paralysis."  As a test, the company trimmed the number of can openers it stocked from more than a dozen to three. Sales went up.

According to the story, "Tritton plans to trim inventory by more than 10% this year, part of a broader plan that also calls for spending as much as $400 million on store remodels, technology upgrades and supply-chain improvements …Other changes include wider aisles and no more piles of merchandise up to the ceiling. Checkout lines flow through more of an organized queue, making them move faster. And while he has no plans to eliminate the coupons the retailer is known for, he does want to simplify pricing by doing away with overlapping promotions and use more signs to better explain deals."

The Journal writes that Tritton hopes to have 25 out of 1,000 stores converted to the new format by the end of the year.

But there are some changes that can be made faster:  "The company is so behind on some basic functions that its stores don’t have Wi-Fi, meaning that shoppers can’t easily check prices online while they shop. They also don’t offer the option of buying online and picking items up in store, a service provided by most large chains.

"Mr. Tritton said he plans to have both Wi-Fi and the buy online pickup service available in all stores by year-end. Along the way, he wants to add more private brands, which have bigger margins and can help the chain differentiate itself from rivals. Mr. Tritton said he developed over 35 private brands for Target, while serving as that chain’s chief merchandising officer."

Tritton also plans to sell non-core business so he can add top the $300 million in cash that bed Bath & Beyond already has on hand.  For example:  Bloomberg notes that Bed Bath & Beyond "is selling its business amid efforts to slim down, renew focus on its core home-furnishings business and reverse years of stagnant sales."

KC's View:

One of the hardest things that Bed Bath & Beyond will have to do is retrain an entire customer base not to wait for those damned blue-and-white coupons to come in the mail before shopping there.  That's got to be a killer, and undermines its ability to communicate value beyond discounts.