The rise and fall of Bed Bath & Beyond, one of America's most iconic big box retailers

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Once the golden child of big-box stores, Bed Bath & Beyond is now struggling to stay afloat.

The retailer will shutter 44 stores across eight states in the next year as it attempts to course-correct in the wake of disappointing sales and executive turmoil.

Bed Bath & Beyond was once a leading home goods retailer, appealing to shoppers across the nation with its strategy of abundance. The beloved store, which lined strip malls across the country, became known for its huge assortment of products spanning every colour and style imaginable.

Over the years, it became a go-to destination for just about anything and everything for the home and – true to its name – beyond.

We took a closer a look at Bed Bath & Beyond’s rise from a small linen store in New Jersey to a major national retail chain now on the brink of collapse.

Bed Bath & Beyond was founded in 1971 in New Jersey by Warren Eisenberg and Leonard Feinstein.

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The duo had formerly worked in management at Arlans, a local discount chain, and saw opportunity for growth in the bed and bath categories.

“We had witnessed the department store shakeout, and knew that specialty stores were going to be the next wave of retailing,” Feinstein told the trade publication Chain Store Executive in 1993.

It was originally called Bed ‘n Bath, to reflect its specialty linens and bath products. The company would later rebrand to Bed Bath & Beyond in 1987.

Mark Peterson/Corbis via Getty ImagesAn employee pushes a cart on his shift.

During the course of the 1970s, Bed Bath & Beyond expanded to 17 locations, primarily in the greater New York area and California.

The 1980s also marked an era of increased competition for Bed Bath & Beyond, thanks to the rise of stores like Linens ‘n Things.

In response, the company launched its first superstore concept, a 20,000-square-foot store that would become the model for the modern Bed Bath & Beyond store.

The company has been widely credited as being at the forefront of the superstore movement in America.

This new massive store featured a wide array of brands and products in nearly every colour and style, setting it apart from department stores at the time that tended to stock a limited assortment of specialty collections.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Funding Universe

This strategy is known by analysts as the “category killer,” a method also employed by retailers like Toys R Us, Best Buy, and Costco.

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This method is intended to bring more shoppers into stores by selling a little bit of everything across all categories and consumer demographics.

Over the next few years, Bed Bath & Beyond opened more superstores in New Jersey, California, Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, and Florida.

Source: Funding Universe

Its new store model — which smartly grouped product categories and strategically placed impulse buys near the register — was particularly conducive to strong sales. By 1991, sales reached $US134 million.

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Source: Funding Universe

Bed Bath & Beyond filed for an IPO in June 1992.

As the company continued to grow, it added popular categories like electric appliances.

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In 1999, it reached $US1 billion in sales.

Getty/Kevork Djansezian

Source: Funding Universe

By the start of the millennium, Bed Bath & Beyond had 311 stores across 43 states.

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Source: Funding Universe

In 2002, Bed Bath & Beyond acquired the health and beauty retailer Harmons, followed by the holiday chain Christmas Tree Shops in 2003.

Over the next 10 years, the company continued to focus on acquisitions, including purchasing Buy Buy Baby in 2007.

Bed Bath & Beyond additionally purchased both Linen Holdings and Cost Plus World Market in 2012.

Lisa Lake/Getty ImagesA shopper at World Market.

By then, Bed Bath & Beyond began to hold a prominent place in popular culture, appearing in shows like “Broad City.”

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During this period, big-box stores like Bed Bath & Beyond began to show signs of struggle, as consumers turned to e-commerce and other cross-category competitors like Walmart and Target.

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Source: Racked

Suddenly, stores like Linens ‘n Things were going out of business.


In May 2019, CEO Steven Temares was ousted by a group of activist investors who called for his resignation in a brutal 168-slide presentation. Several board members also stepped down at the behest of investors.

Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

In the presentation, the investors called company leaders at fault for failing to adapt to the modern retail landscape and causing sales to tank.

In November 2019, former Target CMO Mark Tritton took over for interim CEO Mary Winston as the company’s new leader.

Source: Business Insider

While some experts say the appointment of Tritton brings promise, it’s not expected to be an easy turnaround. In its most recent earnings report, Bed Bath & Beyond reported that comparable sales decreased by 8.3%.

Shoshy Ciment/Business InsiderA messy display at a Bed Bath & Beyond store in New York City.

Source: Forbes

To offset its poor performance, the company will shutter 44 stores across eight states in the next year.

Mark Lennihan/AP Images

Source: Business Insider

Whether the closures will serve as a reset for the company remains to be seen, but regardless, Bed Bath & Beyond has a long road ahead.

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