Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Mark Tritton on the Changing House
NEW YORK, July 20 (Reuters) – Among the many changes that have taken place over the past year, the meaning of home is probably at the top of the list.
More than a nest at the end of the day, the house has also become a workplace, a school, a refuge – or a pandemic prison – 24 hours a day.
For Mark Tritton, this change makes the home redesign as an uplifting and empowering space more crucial, in his role as President and CEO of retailer Bed Bath & Beyond.
He spoke to Reuters to discuss how to make the most of the situation at home.
Q: You got on board shortly before the pandemic, so how did it go?
A: What a crazy time to join the company. But you have to turn these things into lemonade. We were going through a massive transformation, so this was the perfect time to get engaged. The company was ripe for change at all levels. It was a huge opportunity to reinvent an iconic brand.
Q: How did you think and figure out how to stay in business?
A: The first thing we did was look at the liquidity, not knowing how long this crisis was going to last. We did the math and knew we had a long track to be stable.
We closed our stores (temporarily) at the end of March 2020, which hurt us, and made us wonder how we were going to survive. We have been smart in the way we run our business – increasing cash flow, closing some stores, investing in store renovations, fiscal responsibility. I think we did a great job.
Q: How has people’s outlook on the house changed over the past year?
A: It changed their mindset. It is now seen as a zone of safety, comfort and joy. It really is the epicenter of everyone’s life right now: work, home, play.
Whether in one-bedroom apartments or large suburban homes, we’ve seen a lot of good winds for our business: expensive purchases like home offices, new sofas, dining tables. Discretionary home spending is here to stay because it’s where people feel safe and comfortable, and they want to express themselves.
Q: Did people change their spending?
A: It has been an interesting progression. What we saw at the beginning were cleaning products, vacuum cleaners, hand sanitizers, those kinds of basic essentials. Then after we had all looked at the walls a bit longer, people wanted to do something different and started looking at the bedrooms and bathrooms. And the cooking trend continues, as we all cook more at home.
Q: The last few years have been tough for the retail business, so how did you approach this challenge?
A: We have dug and reviewed the data. We looked at the growth of the population, to which people were migrating, both before COVID and throughout it. Where we had duplicated stores, or where we were not generating enough profitability, we removed 200 locations from our real estate portfolio. We’re looking at a five-year horizon where people will shop.
Q: You are launching several house brands. Why did you decide to take this route?
A: It’s an exciting part of our transformation plan. We want to create real differentiation and preference for our products. We feature our own customer-inspired brands – Google them whatever you want, you won’t find them anywhere else.
We are creating a rich brand personality from scratch and launching eight in this exercise alone. So far we’ve launched six, the latest being Squared Away, which focuses on storage and organization. It will reinvent Bed Bath & Beyond.
Q: You think of houses analytically, but has it transformed your own space?
A: My wife and I moved right before COVID. We had to think about where we were going to work in our house and create a space for that, and make it as comfortable and easy as possible. As I’m back in the office, working from home for much of the past year has brought me and my wife together again. It has been truly phenomenal.
Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang
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