With the news this morning that Sue Gove has been officially named president and CEO of Bed Bath & Beyond with the dropping of her “interim” qualifier, the fate of the troubled retailer is now all on her.
Gove, who took over when the company parted ways with the former occupant of the office, Mark Tritton, this past summer, had been designated as a temporary placeholder until the company could appoint a more permanent CEO. Now the job is hers (as Warrensreport predicted in September).
Which begs the question: Now what?
On the one hand, her designation removes any ambiguity about the direction Bed Bath will take. If a new leader had come onboard chances are it would represent yet another repudiation of the status quo and one more teardown of a retailer that has had any number of them over the past few years. Now, at least, there will not be an abrupt change in strategy from the course Gove has set out.
Her plan has included a return to more national brands in the store’s merchandise mix, a downplaying of the private label fixation that characterized Tritton’s realm, a refinancing of debt and strengthening of its balance sheet (albeit at less favorable terms) and cost-cutting involving both headcount and store totals. So far, from the outside at least, it’s difficult to know if any of these actions are starting to gain traction although the new financing does appear to give BBB some additional breathing space in which to work out its problems.
On the other hand, however, Gove was on the board that supported Tritton’s turnaround attempt and was in fact one of the appointees to that board from the outside investors who succeeded in ousting the existing management and board more than three years ago. While an experienced retail executive she has been associated with several company failures as both a CEO and a board member although none can be directly attributed to her roles at those retailers.
Gove has been open – if understandably rah-rah – about Bed Bath’s situation and has talked about a “back to basics” plan to restore the retailer to its former glory days…or at least a reasonable facsimile.
So far Wall Street seems to continue to be hanging in there behind the company. The retailer’s share price had been slowly trailing down but this week is up some 20%, including a modest rise this morning. It is still way off from earlier-year highs but not sinking the way a company would if investors had given up hope.
With the interim label no longer hanging over her, some additional funds to work with and her own team now running things, the future of Bed Bath & Beyond now rest squarely on her corporate shoulders. Given the difficult job ahead of her, it is not exactly an enviable situation.