Bed Bath & Beyond transforms from the inside out

NRF Retail Converge: CEO Mark Tritton on the company’s customer-centered strategy
Fiona Soltes
NRF Contributor

Like much of its customer base, Bed Bath & Beyond has spent the recent season getting its house in order. And the time for showing off the progress is here.

The company, in the midst of a massive turnaround initiative, has set its sights on becoming a leading omnichannel retailer. Much of that has meant changes behind the scenes. But reimagining the customer experience means external changes, as well.

A keynote session at NRF Retail Converge, “Anatomy of growth-driven transformation with Bed Bath & Beyond’s President and CEO, Mark Tritton,” took place as a conversation with Courtney Reagan, CNBC senior retail reporter. She and Tritton dove into online presence, the introduction of numerous owned brands, shifts in culture, the growth of BOPIS, and even the amount of inventory presented in stores.

mark tritton
Mark Tritton,
President and CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond

Tritton took the helm of the then-struggling company in 2019; Bed Bath & Beyond officially announced its aggressive three-year transformation plan last October. Operational changes, including IT, supply chain, digital-first strategy, team members, culture and other factors, are underway.

Previously, he said, the customer simply wasn’t at the center of the company strategy. Stores and digital were treated as separate entities, “often competing for resources and time,” he said, “and we were focused on these entities, as opposed to the customer.”

Doubling down on data allowed for a greater understanding of the customer journey and their interactions with the store. And creating a singular, prioritized agenda, Tritton said, was a tipping point. “For us, it was like, ‘BOPIS, BOPIS, BOPIS,’” he said. “We have to get that into play, and we have to integrate this omni-environment to be of service for ultimate ease and convenience.”

One of the most enjoyable parts of the whole process, Tritton said, has been going beyond transforming the business to helping transform the culture that drives it. He inherited a very tactile and siloed organization; becoming more transparent in sharing the company strategy has brought a cultural shift, along with changes in company talent.

With the latter, the emphasis was on bringing in those who could not only lead with expertise, but also coach on values and those transparency and alignment goals. COVID-19 was both an accelerator and enabler from a cultural point of view; since early in the pandemic, Tritton has been communicating with employees through weekly video talks, engaging in a way that has become a new “norm.”

In terms of the newly introduced owned brands, Tritton shared the desire to create brand experiences that are equivalent to those of national brands. That touches on everything from marketing and social media campaigns to in-store presentation and packaging.

These owned brands function as private label products internally, he said, but in addition to generating the desired sales and margin, they generate customer love, engagement, trust and loyalty.

Bed Bath & Beyond has introduced six such owned brands in six months, with up to 1,100 SKUs each, and more are on the way. That has meant building a world-class owned brand team to pull off the “herculean” task of manufacturing, design, development, brand management and more.

In-store, the “completely revised experience” for the customer has included curating the assortment down by 20-30 percent, taking products down from the rafters, improving messaging and presentation, storytelling, configuring store layout for ease of movement, simplifying checkout and more.

Some 150 stores will be renovated each year over the next few years, he said. Repositioning of inventory, effective use of data and digital improvements mean customers can now buy online and pick up in-store with an hour or two (or sooner). And that convenience, he said, has become part of the currency of customer expectation.

All in all, it’s really just “bringing it up to 21st century retailing. The customer feedback we’re getting from stores is just tremendous,” he said. “Customers feel like we have more assortment, that it’s a fresher, more easy-to-shop environment, because the product breathes. And the price points and the brands are able to be expressed, rather than, ‘It’s just a sea of stuff.’”

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