Bed Bath & Beyond (NASDAQ: BBBY) is trying to make up for lost time in e-commerce by buying another online retailer. For years, the home goods retailer virtually ignored the internet as a sales channel, despite the rise of Amazon.com and the proliferation of e-commerce sites among its competitors. But more recently, it decided that maybe there was something to this "internet thing" after all, and the retailer has been plowing significant resources into its own in-house efforts, as well as starting on what bears all the hallmarks of a nascent shopping spree.
In June, it purchased dying flash sale site One Kings Lane for what was originally described as a "not material" price. At the time, estimates suggested it was less than $30 million, which was a whopping discount from the $900 million valuation the company had held two years earlier, but it turned out even that bargain-basement guess was too high. Bed Bath & Beyond subsequently revealed it paid just $11.8 million, a testament to how far the flash sale model has fallen, and one that also raises the question of how the home goods retailer plans to utilize the otherwise defunct operation and what it could contribute.
Now, it's gone and spent about $190 million to buy PersonalizationMall.com, a seller of (as its name suggests) individually personalized goods like mugs, towels, and holiday gift items. "We are excited by the opportunity to leverage their advanced personalization and production capabilities to create additional omnichannel offerings across all of our concepts," said CEO Steve Temares.
Bed Bath & Beyond has been struggling to reverse the decline in its business brought on by the ever-rising popularity of online shopping. Its fiscal second-quarter earnings report showed sales and profits were down from the year-ago period as same store sales also fell, though its digital channels saw 20% comps growth.
"It is a transitional time for retail," Temares noted, "and many retailers, including us, are experiencing pressure on their operating margins." The retailer also anticipates margins will weaken further due to continued investments in technology, wage increases, and the expected impact of higher coupon and shipping expenses.
While Bed Bath & Beyond should continue to invest in e-commerce, its choices so far make it seem as though it doesn't get quite how the whole thing works yet. Flash sales are a dying fad, and product personalization hardly seems likely to move the needle for the chain, but this probably won't be the last such purchase it makes as its shopping spree gets under way.
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Rich Duprey has no position in any stocks mentioned.