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Bed Bath & Beyond is back from the dead with Overstock.com relaunch

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

Bed Bath and Beyond is back from the dead, sort of. Its website was relaunched today by the online retailer overstock.com. What is going on? NPR's Alina Selyukh is our expert on this long saga of the chain where many of us used to shop. And she's with me now in the studio. Hi, Alina.

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: Hello, hello.

PFEIFFER: So is Bed Bath and Beyond resurrected?

SELYUKH: Sorry, Bed Bath and Beyond is still gone. The home goods giant went bankrupt in April. That's what's happened. So in this - it was this drawn-out, painful collapse. And eventually, bankruptcy court held basically a fire sale or, I guess, more like an estate sale in this case, selling Bed Bath and Beyond for parts. And one of those parts was the intellectual property - the website, the mobile app, the brand name itself. And all of this was bought by overstock.com for $21 million, which frankly feels like a rounding error for a big company. And Overstock actually did it all in cash.

PFEIFFER: Right. That sounds like a tiny amount of money, relatively speaking. So, Alina, if I go to bedbathandbeyond.com, am I shopping on Overstock? Am I still looking at the Bed Bath and Beyond old website?

SELYUKH: As of today, you're pretty much shopping on the new version of overstock.com, which is kind of a fairly unusual choice. Overstock, the company that's very much alive, has decided to fully absorb the identity of Bed Bath and Beyond, which is dead. It's losing the Overstock branding and is becoming this new, online-only Bed Bath and Beyond.

PFEIFFER: With a mixture of what it sells and what Bed Bath and Beyond used to sell.

SELYUKH: Pretty much.

PFEIFFER: So to abandon its own name, overstock.com, feels dramatic. Why is the company doing that?

SELYUKH: It's all about that name recognition. People feel things when they hear the name Bed Bath and Beyond. People used to love this chain before it fell apart. And Overstock wants that emotion. It's not as well-known as many rivals, like Wayfair, for example. Today I talked to chief executive Jonathan Johnson, and he says also, people often assume that Overstock is, like, a liquidation store, which it's not. He also admitted that Overstock was self-aware enough to know that it's a bit of an embarrassing name to put on your wedding registry. Bed Bath and Beyond is not. So basically, he argued both Bed Bath and Overstock were each carrying an albatross that, combined, maybe they can ditch. Here's Johnson.

JONATHAN JOHNSON: Overstock has always had a great business model but kind of a boat anchor of a name. The Bed Bath and Beyond name is a great name, but it has an outdated business model that had become a boat anchor. We think that this combination will let us really sail sleekly, anchor-free, into the future.

SELYUKH: And in the process sell you bed, bath and a ton more of the beyond, like tiles and refrigerators.

PFEIFFER: Is Overstock taking over any of Bed Bath and Beyond's brick-and-mortar stores?

SELYUKH: Yes. Here's what Johnson told me.

JOHNSON: We never say never to physical stores, but it's a never for now.

SELYUKH: Overstock did not buy any of the Bed Bath and Beyond leases. Johnson called it an outdated business model with huge expenses producing higher prices for shoppers, so no stores.

PFEIFFER: You know that many listeners are wondering this, so I'm going to ask you for them. Will the new Bed Bath and Beyond take those legendary, old, big blue coupons?

SELYUKH: Of course. So here's the thing. Overstock is historically a discount store. So when I asked Johnson this very question, he used the moment to plug the new Bed Bath mobile app, which he says will have deals. But to say directly, I'm afraid, Bed Bath and Beyond coupons are done, just like their original company.

PFEIFFER: Truly did. That's NPR's Alina Selyukh. Thanks for coming in.

SELYUKH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Alina Selyukh is a business correspondent at NPR, where she follows the path of the retail and tech industries, tracking how America's biggest companies are influencing the way we spend our time, money, and energy.