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Bed, Bath, Beyond, bankruptcy? A look at the retailer’s bid to avoid Chapter 11

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Customers shop at a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Forest Park, Illinois.

Experts think bankruptcy is likely for BB&B but not necessarily liquidation. Though Seth Basham, a retail analyst at Wedbush Securities, said the company needs to become a unique brand and create value that goes beyond those blue 20% off coupons. Scott Olson/Getty Images

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Bed Bath & Beyond just announced it is closing an additional 140-plus stores, including all of those in its Harmon health and beauty chain. It hinted that it was considering bankruptcy in its last earning call.

The story of Bed Bath & Beyond’s downfall is a decade in the making. Jaime Katz, a retail analyst at Morningstar, said it boils down to speed.

“When you are buying at Bed Bath & Beyond you’re basically shopping the same product that you would shop at Amazon or Target,” Katz said.

She said the company was too slow to pivot to online shopping. So, customers moved elsewhere. As a result, BB&B got stuck with a lot of stuff, sitting at a lot of stores, staffed by a lot of people. Those costs put the business further in the red. So it’s been closing stores and selling off brands to recover cash. But Katz explained that it doesn’t have a lot of runway left.

“It gives them cash to exist for a bit longer, but it doesn’t really change the underlying problem,” Katz said.

The problem being its business model, which is a hard thing to fix while landlords, suppliers and creditors are breathing down your neck. 

“Everybody wants their cut and they’re all now afraid that they’re not gonna get it,” explained Kevin Kaiser, a professor of finance at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “And as they line up and try to take their share of what they’re owed, they will tear apart the company.”

This is why Kaiser thinks bankruptcy is likely. But it doesn’t mean liquidation is. Retailers like Aeropostale and J. Crew have survived Chapter 11. Though Seth Basham, a retail analyst at Wedbush Securities, says turnaround will be trickyThe company needs to become a unique brand and create value that goes beyond those blue 20% off coupons.

“We’ve called those a drug they can’t get off of,” Basham joked.

That coupon even popped up on the company’s media relations website. Bed Bath and Beyond says it’s continuing to examine its store footprint and is working with advisors on “multiple paths.”

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