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A story in the New York Times illustrates, perhaps inadvertently, exactly why Bed Bath & Beyond this week had to declare bankruptcy and announce that it would be closing all its stores.

"Customers - both loyal and lapsed - received an email from the home-goods retailer around 8 a.m. telling them that the company had decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy," the Times writes.  "Its 360 Bed Bath & Beyond stores would soon be closing, as would its 120 Buy Buy Baby locations.

"Shoppers have until Wednesday to use their coupons. Around the country, they rounded up the ubiquitous blue slips of paper offering 20 percent off, stuffed them in pouches and plastic bags, and made their way to the nearest Bed Bath & Beyond.

"At a store in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood on Monday, Sylvia Ward, a self-described Bed Bath & Beyond aficionado from the Bronx, said news of the closings had 'absolutely devastated' her. Then she learned she had only a few days to use coupons.  'I had to run down here today!' she said."

Over the decades, the Times writes, "those coupons reliably showed up in millions of mailboxes - and, more recently, email inboxes - offering a discount on home goods like kitchen gadgets, fluffy pillows and wooden hangers. People gave them as gifts to new homeowners and college students, kept them in kitchen junk drawers and car glove compartments. At least one customer used them as a calling card, writing their phone number on the back of the coupons and handing them to fellow patrons deemed attractive."

KC's View:

All true.  The coupons were highly recognizable.  And ubiquitous.  To the point that if someone were thinking about a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond, that trip would not be made until a coupon could be found.  You felt like a fool if you shopped at Bed Bath & Beyond without one.

Which meant, in the end, that Bed Bath & Beyond seemed to have no value if you didn't have a coupon.  No value at all.

And then, when stronger competition in its primary categories came from Amazon, Walmart and Target, among others, Bed Bath & Beyond faced a harsh reality - no reason for existing, no compelling narrative, and brand equity that was way past its expiration date.  

Hence, its trip to the graveyard reserved for dead retail entities, where it will join the likes of EJ Korvette's, Sports Authority, Borders, Circuit City, CompUSA, Crazy Eddie's, and Blockbuster.

By the way - clearly many of those people who rushed to bed Bath & Beyond when the closings were announced had not been there often in the immediate past.