Member Exclusive   /   October 2, 2019

Bed Bath & Beyond is the latest retailer to add experiences to its wedding registries

As Bed Bath & Beyond looks for a turnaround, one of its few bright spots has been its wedding registry business. But, as more couples are requesting cash requests or trips instead of products, the company could lose its spot as a go-to place for wedding registries.

In an effort to fix the problem before it happens, Bed Bath & Beyond announced earlier this week that it’s partnering with Vebo, a wedding registry experiences platform, to allow couples to add events like cooking classes or trips to their wedding registry. Bed Bath & Beyond is later to the game than other competitors — Target partnered with Honeyfund last year to allow couples to add “honeymoon experiences” to their registry, as have Macy’s and West Elm.

Bed Bath & Beyond does not break out what percentage of its sales come from its registry business. But according to surveys from sites like wedding planning website The Knot, Bed Bath & Beyond consistently ranks as one of the top places to create a wedding registry. Just over half of the more than 6,600 respondents from the Knot’s 2018 survey said that they created a registry at Bed Bath & Beyond — compared to about a third each who said they created a registry with Target or Amazon.

The Knot’s editor-in-chief Kristen Maxwell Cooper said in an email that Bed Bath & Beyond has been listed as the most popular retailer to create a registry with all 9 years that the Knot has conducted the survey.

However the popularity of cash registries has also risen, with many of these respondents looking to use cash to pay for experiences like honeymoon or big purchases, like a car or a home.

As Bed Bath & Beyond is looking for more ways to drive up net sales — its same-store sales have declined for two straight years and it reported a $406.8 million operating loss during the first quarter of its fiscal 2019 year  — registries will be an important lever.

Former CEO Steven Temares, who resigned in May under pressure from activist investors, previously expressed interest on earnings calls in using the registry business to learn more about its customers, as well as to convert its wedding registry customers into customers for other types of registry products, like baby products. But, as store sales at Bed Bath & Beyond continue to fall, its position as a popular place for wedding registries could also fall if fewer shoppers go there regularly.

According to analysts, Bed Bath & Beyond’s same-store sales decline can be attributed to stores that feel outdated and are too cluttered, and don’t offer enough inventory that the customer can’t easily get from other e-commerce sites. Additionally, its margins have been hurt by its heavy reliance on coupons and discounts to drive online sales. For example, members of its new membership program, Beyond Plus, get 20% off every purchase.

“They are sort of the embodiment of what I would call inventory-led retail,” Andrew Lipsman, an e-commerce analyst at eMarketer said, noting that Bed Bath & Beyond still relies mostly on its inventory, rather than services or events, to drive people in-store. But when it comes to creating registries, that can be a plus, given that many couples want to create a registry with a place that has a lot of inventory to chose from in categories like home and cookware.

“The registry I think is still viable because they have great brands,” Jane Hali, analyst and CEO of investment research firm Jane Hali & Associates said. She also noted that compared to competitors like Williams Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, Bed Bath & Beyond has added more tools online to help couples manage their registry.

For example, Bed Bath & Beyond has a registry analyzer, which tells couples how many low, medium, and high-priced goods they have on their registry, to see if they need to add more goods from one category to their registry, as well as a thank you list feature that tells couples who bought what and what address they gave with their purchase, in order to make it easier to send thank-you notes.

As Bed Bath & Beyond seeks to grow its registry business, it will continue to face the most competition from other big-box retailers like Target and Amazon. Most of the new registry entrants like the Knot seek to improve the experience by streamlining it, allowing couples to manage registries created with multiple retailers on one site. But there are other ones like Zola, which has sought to differentiate itself by adding wedding planning services to its website. That’s another area where there’s more opportunity for Bed Bath & Beyond.

But Hali said that one of the biggest threats to Bed Bath & Beyond’s registry business is not other retailers, but Bed Bath & Beyond itself if it fails to improve the in-store experience.

“The overall aura of the brand is not great,” Hali said. “In-store, they could have a better experience for registry.”

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