Bed, Bath & Beyond Pursues Back to College Leadership Post Linens ' Things

Last Updated Jul 9, 2009 12:46 PM EDT

The demise of Linens 'N Things represents a particular opportunity for Bed, Bath & Beyond in the back to school season because promotions in that selling window were something that the departed home specialist did well.

In fact, Linens 'N Things helped define how back to school is presented these days, particularly as regards off-to-college students. It was among the first retailers to really emphasize aggressive, front-of-the store display vignettes featuring a range of related product in high profile space, then expanded on that with in-aisle presentations that trailed away through the store. Bed, Bath & Beyond sees its opportunity. It also has created elaborate displays of back to school products, many aimed at college students. Not only that, but this year the company, which usually limits promotional activities to in-store bargains and direct-mail coupons, has issued not one but two press releases that address dorm room decoration. One discusses fashion and function tips, touting a company spokesperson as resident expert on collegiate home decorating. Among the tips she offers students is to make a statement using what's probably the largest item in a dorm room, the bed, suggesting that the retailer's Nautica comforters and bed spreads could do the trick. She also recommends mattress covers and toppers. Of course, anyone who has ever seen a dorm mattress in the raw would probably agree that having a few layers of material between oneself and itself is for the better.

The other release has a check theme, advising students and their parents â€" a.k.a., the financiers â€" to make an effort at checking school rules about what can go in a dorm room, to get measurements for beds in a check determining if the school, like so many, provides extra long twin mattresses that require linens of a particularly dimension, and to establish a check list of what's needed, something Bed, Bath & Beyond can provide at stores and online. The release also discusses Bed, Bath & Beyond's Pack & Hold service, one that allows students and parents to shop at a store near home and pick up goods at one near school. A final piece of advice: Don't Sweat It. Anything forgotten can easily be found at a Bed, Bath & Beyond, the retailer reminds, identified via a college/store locator on the company's web site.

The web reference is important because Bed, Bath & Beyond's home page currently carries a shop-for-college collection as its main feature. Visitors can click on a selection of student-oriented items or an Equip Your Space bar that takes them to a microsite featuring checklists, a Practical Solutions button that provides products to help with challenges like dealing with limited storage space and student-oriented product selections including, under Kitchen Electrics, a Sanyo compact microwave that retails for a relatively reasonable $59.99.

While discounters including Wal-Mart and Target, warehouse clubs such as Costco and other specialists do back to school aggressively, Bed, Bath & Beyond does it comprehensively, and without Linens 'N Things to fight it for the consumer who wants a wide array of convenient choice in a single destination, it could enjoy a substantial sales bump in the season.