DALLAS: Empty shelves. Dated merchandise and sparsely populated stores.
That was the scene in Bed Bath and Beyond Inc locations across the United States as the once-mighty home goods chain blazed towards bankruptcy in what could be the largest US retail collapse since Toys “R” Us.
The New Jersey-based retailer has warned it doesn’t have the funds to pay its lenders and has stalled efforts to find a bidder that could put the retailer on a path toward liquidation, Bloomberg News reported last Friday.
It’s a far cry from Bed Bath and Beyond’s category-killer heyday, when the retailer’s ubiquitous 20%-off coupons and cavernous stores made it a staple of back-to-school shopping lists and wedding registries across America.
“There’s not as much stuff here,” said 77-year-old Angela Caponi, who was recently browsing the aisles at a Hamilton, New Jersey store. “It’s just not the same.”
Weeks after Christmas clearance items were gone from other retailers, the central New Jersey store was still hawking lighted tree toppers and matching red flannel pyjamas for children and dogs.
Some customers said they couldn’t find basic items like sheets, but US$209 (RM887) Sharper Image massage tools and US$649.99 (RM2,756) Dyson vacuums were aplenty.
“I came in for bed linen, and instead, look what I got. I bought dish towels,” said Mary Brienza, a 47-year-old nurse from New Jersey.
About 2,415kms away near Dallas, employees and customers worried about the chain’s future after the company said it would shutter another 87 stores, in addition to the 150 closures it announced in August.
If Bed Bath and Beyond were to close, “what would we be left with? Target and Walmart?” said shopper Marguerite Trail, 71, who lives in Houston, but was visiting relatives in the area.
One employee at the Dallas-area store acknowledged the negative headlines about the chain, but said merchandise was arriving regularly and emphasised that the store had no plans to close.
With a Bed Bath and Beyond bankruptcy filing growing increasingly imminent, competing retailers like Target Corp and Walmart are poised to score a fresh crop of customers if the company is shut down.
“Target has benefited from the continued rationalisation of the retail landscape from department stores to specialty players such as Toys ‘R’ Us,” Rupesh Parikh, an analyst at Oppenheimer and Co, said in a note to clients.
“We believe the company could continue to capitalise on ongoing challenges at retail, including at department stores, Bed Bath and Beyond.”
In the case of a full liquidation of Bed Bath and Beyond, Target could grab as much as 20% of the company’s business, adding US$1.11bil (RM4.71bil) in sales and 28 US cents (RM1.19) a share in earnings, Parikh said.
Only a handful of late-morning shoppers trickled into the store near Dallas last Friday morning. Among them were Peter and Katherine Grimshaw, a couple in their 70s, who were stocking up on towels and other bath products after recently moving to a new home.
Katherine, a Bed Bath and Beyond customer for “years and years and years,” criticised what she saw as a less abundant selection of merchandise since the pandemic. She added that she kept coming back because she found it easier to shop there than at larger stores.
A large Target operates near the Dallas-area Bed Bath and Beyond location. HomeGoods, part of a chain owned by TJX Cos, Walmart, Lowe’s Cos Inc, Ross Stores Inc and Dollar Tree Inc all have nearby stores.
“Since the move, we’ve probably come here five or six times,” Peter said of Bed Bath and Beyond. “If they shut it down, we’d have to go to three other stores just to get what we can find here.” — Bloomberg