Bed Bath & Beyond canceled a Friday auction for its Buy Buy Baby chain because it failed to secure a buyer willing to keep its stores running – but it’s not quite over for the baby retailer just yet, CNBC has learned.
Bidders backed out of the auction after they determined the chain was no longer worth buying because its value had deteriorated so much, but there are parties still interested in its assets, according to two people close to the matter who weren’t authorized to discuss it publicly.
While it would be unusual, Bed Bath & Beyond could still accept a bid for Buy Buy Baby early next week. The chain’s fate won’t be definitively determined until Tuesday, when a court hearing is scheduled to approve the sale of Buy Buy Baby’s intellectual property to Dream on Me Industries. The company, a little known New Jersey-based retailer and one of Buy Buy Baby’s former suppliers, agreed to buy its trademark and digital assets for $15.5 million if no higher bids arise.
Once considered the crown jewel of Bed Bath & Beyond’s now-failed empire, the baby chain has been in the midst of liquidation sales at its 120 stores since its parent company filed for bankruptcy protection April 23.
As the auction process dragged on and Buy Buy Baby’s inventory dwindled, so did its value. Nearly three months into close out sales, there’s little left to bid on besides the brand’s intellectual property, one of the people said.
“Most of the value was in the IP, especially at this point in the process. One can imagine that three months ago, when they were fully functioning stores operating and running, that might not be the case,” said the person.
For the past several weeks, Bed Bath & Beyond has repeatedly pushed back and split up the bankruptcy-run auction process for Buy Buy Baby so it could secure higher bids and find a firm that was willing to keep stores running.
Bed Bath & Beyond scheduled a separate auction for Friday in which buyers could bid on the chain as a going concern and noted Dream on Me’s bid could be superseded if they received a higher sale price.
However, it canceled the auction late Thursday when those bids failed to materialize, a spokesperson said in a statement.
Go Global Retail, a brand investment firm that’s represented by Ankura Capital Advisors, had been interested in keeping about 75% of Buy Buy Baby’s stores running and had earlier sought an additional $50 million in capital to shore up its bid, CNBC previously reported. The firm is already in the baby business and currently owns children’s apparel company Janie and Jack. It declined to comment when reached by CNBC.
If the auction had been held, bids likely would not have been much higher than the $15.5 million Dream on Me offered for the chain’s intellectual property because the only other assets leftover were its employees, empty stores, leases and whatever inventory was left, said the source.
Any firm that’s willing to take over will likely have to shut the stores down for a couple of months so they can restock and get them back up and running.
Last month, Overstock.com won the auction for Bed Bath & Beyond’s intellectual property and digital assets with a bid price of $21.5 million. It decided to change its eponymous website name to Bedbathandbeyond.com.
It is not clear what Dream on Me plans to do with Buy Buy Baby if it ends up the ultimate victor. The company didn’t return requests for more information from CNBC.