Bed Bath & Beyond focuses on e-commerce, decor for holiday shoppers

  • Bed Bath & Beyond Chief Brand Officer Cindy Davis spoke with Business Insider about the company’s stellar summer sales, as well as its plans for winning during the holiday season.
  • Davis said the brand’s strategy includes a $29 annual loyalty program, enhanced e-commerce and omnichannel fulfillment services, and earlier-than-ever holiday offerings.
  • The Bed Bath & Beyond executive said the company plans to remain “close to the customer” to continue to glean insights on consumer trends for the holidays.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Bed Bath & Beyond pulled off a major back-to-school sales coup this summer, despite many colleges across the United States going remote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Now the retailer is looking to apply those lessons to its holiday strategy, according to its Chief Brand Officer Cindy Davis. Back-to-school and holiday shopping are the biggest traffic drivers for the brand. 

Davis credited the company’s positive second-quarter sales — which soared above analysts’ estimates, according to — with Bed Bath & Beyond’s ability to “pivot” to better suit customers’ needs during the pandemic. The company saw  89% digital sales growth compared to the same time period last year, although this was partially offset by a 12% decline in comparable-store sales.

“We had a plan in place for second quarter that was really different for us,” Davis said. “It was customer-inspired, data-driven, and really focused on our omnichannel services. It was a fully integrated plan and it really helped us deliver on Q2.”

The result was two million new customers flocking to Bed Bath & Beyond’s website.

Davis said that those new shoppers tended to be six years younger on average than the company’s existing customers. While Bed Bath & Beyond is known for inundating customers with 20% off coupons in the mail, this new crop of shoppers is less discount-focused and more engaged with e-commerce, she said. They also have a heightened interest in home decor.

“So it was a lot of excitement, because even though our stores were closed early on in the quarter, connecting with those new customers digitally really helped us deliver those results,” she said.

With so many universities only offering remote learning, fears over a dearth of back to school spending spread throughout the retail industry. Bed Bath & Beyond responded by analyzing how consumer needs might change in a virtual or socially-distanced learning environment. Those insights were then applied to different stores based on proximity to schools opting for virtual or in-person teaching.

When it comes to pandemic-era back-t0-school shopping, Davis said that items like coffee makers, cookware, cutlery, drinkware, and other kitchen electronics saw a bigger spike than expected, as pandemic-conscious students eschewed campus dining halls for dorm cooking. And with new customers eager to decorate for the holidays, that trend of surging interest in home goods is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon.

“Home has been the center of our lives for months since the pandemic started,” she said.

Davis said that the company intends to keep at its data-driven, customer-centric strategy for the holiday season as well. 

That means providing customers with inspiration through the company’s website, running an online design service called Decorist, providing discounts through a $29 annual loyalty program, and continuing the brand’s renewed omnichannel fulfillment abilities through in-store pickup, curbside pickup, and same day delivery. Earlier in October, Bed Bath & Beyond announced that it was teaming up with Shipt to for same-day delivery. CEO Mark Tritton previously worked as chief merchandising officer at Target, which owns Shipt.

The company will also begin rolling out early holiday deals starting in October, as Davis said that Bed Bath & Beyond customers are signaling that they are looking to start shopping for holiday gifts earlier than ever. The coronavirus pandemic has prompted retailers to bump up holiday-related time tables in the hopes of avoiding shipping snarls brought on by an explosion in online shopping.

“A lot of the disciplines and integrated planning that we applied to the second quarter that drove those results are the same ones we’ve taken into holiday planning,” Davis said. “We’re really staying close to the customer from an insights perspective, so that we are able to build a plan that will meet her needs.”

During the holiday season, Davis said plenty of people may find themselves in the same boat as a college student: stuck inside and flying solo for the first time when it comes to cooking and decorating. The result is a “real hunger for inspiration” among consumers.

“Our customers are always looking for inspiration and value and ease from us, but a lot more will be looking for inspiration across all of our channels this year,” Davis said. “A lot of our customers are going to be hosting the holidays for the very first time this year, and they’re not going to be traveling as much to see family and friends.”

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