At its largely formulaic – and anticlimactic – annual meeting, held virtually this morning, Bed Bath & Beyond essentially reiterated its mea culpa from last week’s bombshell financial results and executive firings while pledging to do better – and quickly.
In a 25-minute session that was short on drama and long on promising improvements to its rapidly deteriorating top and bottom-line performances, board chairwoman Harriet Edelman said “our actions show that change is required,” adding that it is addressing “the big issues with big solutions.” And if there were no major updates on its plans today, she said more details would be forthcoming “by the end of next month.”
In comments from interim CEO Sue Gove – she took over from Mark Tritton who was let go with the release of the retailer’s devastating first quarter loss and declining sales two weeks ago – and other company officials, Bed Bath reaffirmed its plans to bring costs more into line with sales, drive more traffic to both its stores and online business, get its inventory worked down and realign its merchandising mix to be more in line with customer needs and wants.
Gove did say she continues to see a role for “owned” brands, the signature merchandising strategy under Tritton, specifically citing the Simply Essentials opening price point program as being “right on target.” She said the balance of national brands versus private label was being reworked. She also said the company’s BuyBuyBaby unit was doing well and in response to a question after the meeting said no decision had been made on the potential sale or spin-off of the brand. She did not set a timetable as to when that decision might be made.
She also said Bed Bath’s new loyalty program, Welcome Rewards, had signed up one million members in its first two weeks and she was encouraged by that start.
If the meeting lacked any further surprises or updates, that was probably welcome news for the shell-shocked company and its investors. By mid-morning Thursday, its stock was essentially flat, trading at just below $5 a share, a price it has hovered at since the earnings release. Gove said there was a real “sense of urgency” to fix its problems and Edelman may have captured the mood inside company headquarters in Union, NJ: She characterized the recent weeks as “appropriately intense.”