Homeware giant Bed Bath & Beyond has filed for bankruptcy

Bed Bath & Beyond has lost shoppers and money after a series of ineffective or mistimed turnaround attempts. It has also exhausted numerous financial lifelines. Shown here is a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Westbury, New York.

Bruce Bennett / Bruce Bennett

The once-dominant home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond has filed for bankruptcy protection after months of losing shoppers 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 to be mistimed or ineffective.

Since first warning of a bankruptcy in January, the company has exhausted numerous last-ditch efforts to shore up financing, including store closures, job cuts and several 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 sales falling 40% to 50% from a year earlier. Sales had fallen similarly 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.

Its shares rose and crashed as a meme stock on the news that activist investor Ryan Cohen invested in the company. He shook up corporate leadership and then cashed out of his bet with a tidy profit.

Then came hundreds of store closures, sweeping layoffs and news of the shocking death of the company’s financial chief. Suppliers hesitated about sending more stuff to Bed Bath & Beyond, worried they wouldn’t get paid for it.

Late last summer, the company had secured financing to propel it through the holiday shopping season. But lackluster sales led to waning enthusiasm from creditors in a trickier 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 those lenders to cut off its credit. The company began striking last-chance deals to stay afloat, selling more shares, asking landlords for breaks on rent and even having another company pay for its merchandise. In mid-April, its stock price sank 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 outlived its main rival, Linens ‘n Things, and later bought BuyBuy Baby, World Market and online retailer One Kings Lane.

Shoppers flocked to Bed Bath & Beyond for a treasure-hunt-like stroll through aisles stacked floor to ceiling with trash cans, kitchen gadgets, shower caddies and bedding. Its blue never-expiring 20% off coupon became such a cultural staple that it’s frequently sold on eBay.

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