I’ve been known to drop a sports metaphor in this space from time to time (the former sportswriter in me breaking loose). So, please indulge me if the hiring of Mark Tritton as Bed Bath & Beyond’s president and CEO had me thinking of all the Major League Baseball teams currently interviewing for a new manager.
The teams generally are choosing between two types of candidates.
One is the big-name, former big-league manager with a winning track record that often relies on old-school instincts cultivated from such experience.
The other is the lesser-known baseball savant, often younger and with no top-level managerial experience, who is believed to relate better to the new generation of players while using a deep reserve of analytics and new-school methods to guide decisions.
Bed Bath & Beyond has gone the latter route in handing Tritton the reins to a team that had already begun a turnaround effort under interim chief Mary Winston and its board.
Considering the plans already in motion since the departures of Arthur Stark in 2018 and Steve Temares earlier this year, maybe it would have been counterproductive for Bed Bath & Beyond to go with a big-name CEO from retailing or beyond that could have wiped the slate clean.
In Tritton, perhaps Bed Bath & Beyond gets exactly what it needs: a progressive merchant with big-brand pedigree (Timberland and Nike), premium private-label proficiency (Nordstrom) and a record of successful home product development and omnichannel integration (Target).
With the company exploring the divestiture of such assets as Christmas Tree Shops, Buy Buy Baby and Cost Plus World Market, Tritton’s assignment is focused on restoring the core Bed Bath & Beyond operation that still owns a valuable share of the home products retail business.
We already know Bed Bath & Beyond isn’t winning over a new generation of shoppers with dizzying arrays of goods stacked to the ceilings, an endless stream of 20%-off coupons and an uninspiring e-commerce platform. Tritton’s priority should be the development and implementation of a first-class, innovative and captivating omnichannel experience that starts with a re-energized, right-sized and distinctively curated store base.
Tritton’s resumé provides clues into how his strengths might translate to the Bed Bath & Beyond turnaround strategy, but his game plan won’t come together overnight. Progress, as much as it needs to happen quickly, should be measured in steps not leaps.
Look For Hope
Look to Best Buy or to Restoration Hardware or to Ulta for hope if you think struggling big-box specialty retailers are doomed.
The game isn’t over for Bed Bath & Beyond. There are plenty of stakeholders rooting for a big comeback.
And just because Tritton hasn’t held the chief managerial post for a rebuilding retail business like Bed Bath & Beyond doesn’t mean he is out of his league.