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Once-dominant home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond has filed for bankruptcy protection after months of losing customers and money.
The company, which also owns the BuyBuy Baby chain, has struggled to regain its financial footing after a series of turnaround attempts that proved ill-timed or ineffective.
Sue Gove, president and CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. said in a statement, “Millions of customers have trusted us through the most important milestones in their lives—from going to college to getting married, settling into a new home to have a baby.
“Our teams have worked with incredible purpose to support and strengthen our beloved banners, Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy BABY. We deeply value our employees, customers, partners and the communities we serve, and we are determined to serve them through it all. We will continue to work hard to maximize value for the benefit of all stakeholders.”
The company said that for now its 360 Bed Bath & Beyond and 120 BuyBuy Baby stores and websites would remain open, but that over time they would be closed.
Since the first notice of bankruptcy in January, the company has exhausted a series of last-ditch efforts to shore up financing, including store closures, job cuts and multiple lifelines from banks and investors.
Bed Bath & Beyond previously cited “lower customer traffic and reduced levels of inventory availability” as it flagged “substantial doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.” A preliminary report for the holiday season quarter showed that sales fell 40% to 50% from the previous year. Sales had fallen correspondingly in the quarter before that, down 32%.
Bed Bath & Beyond was once a dominant “category killer” that absorbed or outlived many early rivals. As recently as 2018, the chain had over 1,500 stores.
But it tipped into bankruptcy after a few roller-coaster years.
Shares rose and crashed like a meme stock on the news that activist investor Ryan Cohen invested in the company. He shook up the company’s management and then cashed out of his stake with a tidy profit.
Then came hundreds of store closings, widespread layoffs and news of the shocking death of the company’s chief financial officer. Suppliers hesitated to send more items to Bed Bath & Beyond, worried they wouldn’t get paid for it.
Late last summer, the company had secured funding to power it through the Christmas shopping season. But weak sales led to waning enthusiasm from creditors in a more difficult economic environment. Soon, Bed Bath & Beyond was struggling to pay what it owed banks and suppliers.
In January, the chain defaulted on some of its loans, prompting lenders to cut off credit. The company began making last-chance deals to stay afloat, selling more stock, asking landlords for rent breaks and even getting another company to pay for its goods. In mid-April, the share price fell to 24 cents.
Launched in the 1970s as a single store in New Jersey, Bed Bath & Beyond seemed unstoppable even through the Great Recession as it outlasted its main rival, Linens ‘n Things, and later acquired BuyBuy Baby, World Market and online retailer One Kings Lane .
Shoppers flocked to Bed Bath & Beyond for a scavenger hunt-like stroll through aisles stacked floor-to-ceiling with bins, cookware, shower stalls and bedding. The blue, never-expiring 20% off coupon became such a cultural staple that it is often sold on eBay.