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By Renée Jean, Business and Tourism Reporter
Shoppers were few and far between at the Bed, Bath & Beyond store in Cheyenne late Thursday afternoon, where a storewide discount of 10% has been placed on all merchandise as part of a liquidation for the big-box store.
“I’m looking for a little bit of everything,” a shopper who identified herself only as Lili told Cowboy State Daily. “I just like the sales. Although, I am really sad that they are leaving.
“But I know they will still have an online presence. Most of the time I’ve just been ordering online anyways to find what I want.”
The sofa-shopping trend has contributed to the demise of more than one big-box store, with many customers finding they prefer to comparison shop with a mug of coffee in one hand and a device of choice in the other.
For Lili, she views online shopping as a way to avoid impulse buying – like she was engaged in Thursday afternoon.
“I feel like I actually save more money, because here I am,” she said, sweeping one arm out to encompass the store while the other clutched a pizza pan and other enticing odds and ends like notecards. “I really don’t need a pizza pan; it would be nice. But when I’m looking on the Internet, it’s definitely just what I want. And I feel like I get better bargains doing it online.”
High Prices Hurt Chain
While Lili felt the 10% discount for the name-brand items she seeks is not a bad deal, other shoppers felt that even with a 10% discount the prices were still well above what competitors offer.
“I like their stuff in here, don’t get me wrong,” Alisha Garcia told Cowboy State Daily. “The items in here are always nice and great. But then, when you see that price tag on some of the stuff in here, (it’s) never mind. You can find it elsewhere.”
What saddens her the most about Bed Bath & Beyond’s demise in Wyoming is that there will be yet another empty storefront in her community. There’s already an empty space next to Bed Bath & Beyond in Cheyenne, with a real estate sign announcing its availability. That space used to be HobbyTown USA, according to the realtor.
“It’s just going to be another empty building for X amount of time here,” Garcia said. “Who knows what Cheyenne will put in place of it?”
The Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce told Cowboy State Daily it’s not yet known what might fill those large, vacant retail spaces, but suggested it will be a topic of future conversation.
Scant Information From Company
Employees at the Cheyenne store were telling customers Thursday that the store will linger into May, as it will help liquidate goods at warehouse locations, including one in Loveland, Colorado.
An email to Bed, Bath & Beyond inquiring about its other Wyoming location in Casper referred Cowboy State Daily to the company’s website, which had no information about either store’s schedule for closure.
The email also ignored questions about the planned sales schedule, how many people are employed at each store and whether any separation packages are planned for them, or the store’s gameplan for survival once it has finished closing around 400 locations.
Catherine Blankenship, who went to the store Thursday afternoon to use a gift card before the store closes, said she also felt the store prices seemed rather high for a business that will be closing soon.
“My husband said (sales) usually start off slow,” she said. “Then, as they get closer to the closing date, you know, they go up.”
Blankenship indicated she might wait a bit and return later to use her gift card to see if sales improve.
More Than Just Online
Bed Bath & Beyond joins a growing list of big-box stores that have struggled recently, as the retail landscape continues to change thanks to online shopping and other trends.
Storied brands like JC Penney – which was launched in Kemmerer, Wyoming – Sears and others have all fallen by the wayside in recent years.
Some have managed to rise above e-commerce trends by offering in-store workshops that tap into the do-it-yourself trend or other experiences that draw consumers to their stores.
In its heyday, Bed Bath & Beyond had 949 stores and was in all 50 states, and its popularity even led to it being mentioned in movies like “Click,” an Adam Sandler flick where the main character buys a universal remote from Bed, Bath & Beyond and gets a little more than he bargained for.
Bed, Bath & Beyond had rather humble beginnings, as Bed ‘n Bath in Springfield, New Jersey. The niche store proved to be a good bet thanks to 1980s consumerism, and soon branched out into a large number of categories besides just linens.
As the store grew, it adopted the so-called “category killer” business model, which features diverse inventory in a wide range of goods, all at affordable prices. That model continued to work well, without the need for a lot of promotions, throughout the first decade of the 2000s.
But rising e-commerce began to shift consumer shopping habits, and Bed, Bath & Beyond struggled to adapt. Things grew worse under subsequent CEOs whose efforts to turn things around completely missed the mark on what consumers really wanted.
In more recent times, an avalanche of high-priced private label goods — that have higher profit margins — replaced the popular and affordable brands that loyalists had loved. That further worsened sales, as consumers found they could find similar products elsewhere, for much less, online.
In September, the company announced it was closing 150 stores. Wyoming’s stores in Casper and Cheyenne weren’t on the list at that time, but in recent weeks signs appeared at each announcing their impending closure.
Both stores have since been added to a growing list of stores that are closing.
Bed, Bath, & Beyond has so far narrowly averted outright bankruptcy through the combination of cost-cutting store closures and an unusual stock offering that has so far raised $200 million in equity. The plan is to raise $1 billion total in coming months.
The emergency effort is backed by investment firm Hudson Bay Capital Management, according to reports in Bloomberg and The New York Times.
Hudson Bay is a merger specialist based in Connecticut.
While the move does give Bed, Bath & Beyond some breathing room to turn things around, many analysts are skeptical the effort will do more than simply prolong the company’s death throes.
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