Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Retail

Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. (BBBY) Q4 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

BBBY Earnings Call - Final Transcript

Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. (NASDAQ: BBBY) Q4 2021 earnings call dated Apr. 13, 2022

Corporate Participants:

Susie A. Kim — Investor Relations

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Hannah Pittock — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Justin Kleber — Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc. — Analyst

Michael Lasser — UBS Investment Research — Analyst

Steven Forbes — Guggenheim Securities LLC — Analyst

William Reuter — Bank of America — Analyst

Jason Haas — Bank of America Global Research — Analyst

Jonathan Matuszewski — Jefferies — Analyst

Seth Basham — Wedbush Securities, Inc. — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Welcome to the Bed Bath & Beyond’s Fiscal 2021 Fourth Quarter Earnings Conference Call. My name is John, I’ll be your operator for today’s call. [Operator Instructions] Please note, the conference is being recorded.

And I will now turn the call over to Susie Kim, Head of Investor Relations.

Susie A. Kim — Investor Relations

Thank you and good morning everyone. Welcome to our fiscal 2021 fourth quarter earnings call. Joining us today are Mark Tritton, our President and CEO and Gustavo Arnal, our Chief Financial Officer.

Before we begin, let me remind you that our fiscal 2021 fourth quarter earnings release and slide presentation can be found in the Investor Relations section of our website at bedbathandbeyond.com and as exhibits to our related Form 8-K. This conference call and the slides we refer to may contain forward-looking statements, including statements about or references to our outlook regarding the company’s performance, our internal models and our long-term objectives. All such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from what we say during the call today. Please refer to our most recent periodic SEC filings for more detail on these risks and uncertainties, including the risk factors section in our annual report on Form 10-K and our quarterly report on Form 10-Q. The company undertakes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements.

Additionally, the information we will discuss today contains certain financial measures that exclude amounts or are subject to adjustments that have the effect of excluding amounts that are included in the most directly comparable measure prepared in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. For a reconciliation to the most comparable measures presented in accordance with GAAP, please refer to the table in our earnings release available on our website and included as an exhibit to our Form 8-K filed today.

It is now my pleasure to turn the call over to Mark.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Susie, and good morning everyone. As we close the first year of our comprehensive transformation, we are disappointed that our near term results demonstrated a dislocation between our short-term operations versus our long-term strategy. Sales and gross margin during the fourth quarter did not reflect our team’s hard work and execution against our long-term transformational efforts. Our business has been impacted by extraordinary macroeconomic factors such as the derailing of the global supply chain, continued disruptions from the omicron variant, unprecedented inflation, rising interest rates and a turbulent geopolitical landscape, which have also weighed on consumer confidence.

Internally, these factors have exposed more short-term to medium-term vulnerabilities that we did not foresee at this stage of our transformation as we completely rebuild the foundation of our business. There have been operational deficits in our near-term execution, and as we enter fiscal 2022, we have focused on re-stabilizing our business while navigating the headwinds that still persists.

The core issues remain embedded in pervasive supply chain challenges, which led to fourth quarter comparable sales of minus 12% and adjusted gross margins at 28.8%. Specifically, the lack of available inventory, which impacted us last quarter, has proved to be a continuing impediment. Despite our overall inventory levels, product not available for sale or held at ports and DCs remain at abnormal highs. Sales for the fourth quarter suffered an impact of approximately $175 million or a high-single-digit deficit as a result of the ongoing lack of in-stock and available-to-sell merchandise in our Bed Bath banner. This level of pressure continued towards the end of the quarter and throughout March.

For perspective, on a traditional November through January basis used by many of our retail peers, our quarterly comparable sales would have been only down high-single-digits. Furthermore, through our own data tracking analysis, industry trends have continued to worsen since February as macro market volatility and overall consumer uncertainty has surged.

Our not-available-to-sell inventory remained high at 30% across key categories compromising our traffic generating recovery strategies. For example, our initial projections had anticipated recovery in Q4, driven by a return to a more normalized circular strategy. However, major items advertised in our circular were affected by out-of-stocks and therefore were unable to proceed as planned. We will continue to align marketing resources within stock availability and redirect our strategies to other avenues such as postcards and doorbuster events, which have seen relative success, although these do not mirror the traffic generating power of our circular.

In line with our strategy, we continue to increase our structurally-healthier merchandise margins through our our owned brands, as well as more efficient pricing and promo optimization. However, historically high freight and shipping costs and unexpected port-related fees, as part of those costs, had a significant negative impact to overall gross margins for the quarter. Excluding these escalating supply chain costs, our adjusted gross margin would have been 32.4%.

Taking a step back, 2021 marked the first year of our multi-year transformation. Amidst the macroeconomic environment, we have been charting a new course for our group by reconstructing our operating model to drive greater long-term efficiency and effectiveness. Our recent financial performance even further underscores the need for our long-term strategy. And in this first year, I’m encouraged that we achieved all of our transformational milestones to set the foundation for our future. This was no small feat.

Firstly, we fortified our product offering through the launch of eight new owned brands. Collectively, we exited 2021 at a run rate of approximately 25% in penetration of owned brands exceeding our 20% goal for the year and compared to only 10% in 2020. Through our owned brands, we introduced a new suite of products to differentiate Bed Bath & Beyond, while also creating new opening price points to remain competitive, especially now in light of inflation pressures.

Furthermore, we continue to deliver improvements with our customer connections in both digital and in stores. We enhanced our digital-first omni-always commitment through the enablement of cross banner shopping on our website as well as the launch of our own marketplace. Our physical store footprint also improved as we initiated 131 store remodels, of which we completed approximately 80 and optimized our fleet by closing more than 200 underperforming stores program to date. Through expanded partnerships with Uber and DoorDash for same-day delivery and earlier BOPIS opportunities, the combination of our digital and stores channel has been a powerful enabler for the future of our omni-always customer promise.

In fiscal ’22, we will build on these foundations we established in ’21. Inventory, pricing and traffic will continue to be the key areas of focus in the near term as we navigate the volatility of the current operating environment. Our year-two transformation milestones will support these efforts, including the core of our product pillar will be clearly on unlocking inventory currently held in transit so that we can again fulfill customer demand in full. Additionally, we’re going to continue building on the work we’ve done with our supply chain infrastructure. Following the opening of our first full regional distribution center in Pennsylvania in very late 2021, work on our second distribution center for the West Coast is well underway and slated for opening in late 2022. The modernization of our operational foundation will be important tailwind as we emerge from the current environment and protect us in a completely different way in the future.

2022 will also see some significant changes to our marketing offering. We will launch a new loyalty program that will span all our banners and fulfill our goal to create a compelling value and engagement proposition for our customers. We’ll also begin to see our digital channel evolve further. This week we soft-launched the Moments ad network, our retail media platform that builds on our authority in the home and baby markets. Customers and suppliers will be able to connect in a new way across our digital properties as they engage with our banners for each important life moments.

Our strategic imperative remains to rebuild our authority in creating a home and family for all generations, from infancy through adulthood even into retirement. We’ll continue building brand awareness and strength through partnerships and organic investments. Last week, we announced the exciting launch of our Kroger collaboration on their website, expanding the reach of both Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy BABY to Kroger’s extensive customer network. We are currently working on our initial shop-in-shop concept for Kroger, which remain slated for this year.

I’m also pleased to announce that we will be opening 20 to 25 new buybuy BABY stores this year, in line with our previously outlined plans to capture the opportunity we are seeing in this key space, in addition to incubating new offerings within our Harmon banner. Of course, our Bed Bath & Beyond store remodel program remains underway with a further 130 to 150 locations planned for this year, taking our remodel total to well over 200 by year-end. We will share updates on our transformation as the year progresses.

I’d like to take a moment to address buybuy BABY as this is a first-hand example of our ability to stabilize and optimize businesses without encumbering forces. Buybuy BABY achieved approximately $1.4 billion in sales for fiscal 2021, growing double-digits versus last year with an adjusted EBITDA margin in the mid-single-digits. The actions we took in 2021 to recover and drive our BABY business proved successful and we look forward to unlocking additional value from this banner as we announced a few weeks ago. At this time, we do not have an update on the work that has already been underway by our Board and management team to define how we unlock further value. We will update you all on material developments as they arise. We will not be commenting further on this work today.

Now on to Gustavo to cover our financial results in more detail, in addition to addressing it, our outlook for fiscal 2022. Gustavo?

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you, Mark, and good morning everyone. As Mark said, we remain focused on our transformational plans. However, we are not pleased at all with our short-term results. While the macroeconomic environment will never be fully predictable, 2021 showed us a need to improve how we anticipate and manage volatility. Our fragile legacy systems are a limitation, but still we need to compensate and correct accordingly.

For fiscal fourth quarter, which covers the period ending February 26, reported net sales continued to reflect the impact from planned non-core banner divestitures completed last year, as well as our ongoing store fleet optimization program. For the quarter, total net sales were $2.05 billion, which included a comp sales decline of 12% versus last year, and down 8% in comp versus 2019. Sales were negatively impacted by approximately $175 million or a high-single-digit deficit as a result of the continued low levels of in-stock and available-to-sell merchandise in our Bed Bath banner. This dynamic did not improve as the quarter progressed.

By channel, store comp sales were down 8%, while digital sales declined 18% versus COVID-fueled growth of 86% last year. Despite a normalization in digital demand from prior peaks, our digital channel still represented 41% of total net sales. Overall penetration continues to be nearly double 2019 levels, which we have largely maintained all year.

By banner, Bed Bath & Beyond comparable sales decreased 15% versus last year and 9% versus 2019. Buybuy Baby continued to deliver strong results with comp growth of low-single-digit on the quarter, fueled by mid-teens growth in stores. This resulted in double-digit growth for the full year on top of solid overall growth last year.

And now moving on to gross margin performance. Adjusted gross margin was 28.8%, 400 basis points lower than last year, given 40 basis points from product cost increases, net of owned brand mix, pricing and promotional optimization, as well as 360 basis points, primarily related to transient port fees, freight and shipping inflation. Freight and shipping cost increases were significantly higher than expected, a 170 basis points. Container rate and inbound freight rates moved unpredictably higher in late January and February, in part, given the spike in oil prices as the year started. Further, given the significant portion of inventory that has been congested at ports, warehouses or DCs, we were charged, for the first time, unexpected port-related demurrage fees. This led to an additional unanticipated impact of 100 basis points. And lastly, warehouse-related inventory adjustments of 90 basis points were reflected as we finalized the year, which we do not expect to continue in this magnitude moving forward. Excluding these supply chain cost escalations in the quarter, Q4 adjusted gross margin was 32.4%.

SG&A dollar expense was in line with our internal plans, although slightly higher as a rate of sales due to a lower revenue base. With these sales and gross margin performance, we reported an EBITDA loss of $30 million. This led to adjusted EPS of negative $0.92.

Looking ahead, as you all know, the importance of pricing has been a critical theme for us as we’ve been navigating the current environment. Given our lower margin profile, just 1% of pricing and promo optimization equates to approximately 100 basis points of gross margin and accordingly, significant EBITDA dollars. Therefore, although we have been managing our promotional cadence acutely with regular price sales improving versus last quarter and last year, it was still not enough to offset the volatile supply chain environment. Pricing and cost recovery will be key to show our resilience in the near term. And as we’ve demonstrated previously, we’re implementing strategies to recover from current conditions sustainably.

Turning to our balance sheet and cash flow. Cash and liquidity remained solid during the fourth quarter. We generated approximately $280 million of operating cash flow. We continued with our planned transformational investments of approximately $120 million. These critical investments supported store remodel, supply chain, and IT systems reformation. This led to positive free cash flow of approximately $160 million.

In Q4, we executed approximately $230 million in share buybacks or approximately 14 million shares. As planned, we completed our $1 billion repurchase program inclusive of approximately $40 million of share repurchase in March. As a result, we have taken our total share count from 126 million shares to 80 million shares for a reduction of approximately 37%. Our cash and investment balance remained healthy at $0.5 billion with total liquidity at quarter end of $1.4 billion.

I will now share our outlook commentary for fiscal 2022. Due to the volatility and macro uncertainty of the current operating environment, we’re providing qualitative parameters related to where we currently are in the first quarter and the fiscal year. This has been informed by both current trends as well as broad operating expectations for the full year.

At this point in the first quarter, we continue to see challenging sales and traffic trends in our business due to lack of inventory availability as well as a change in market patterns. Additionally, we’re seeing an emerging uncertainty related to consumer sentiment based on market and retail indicators that show a distinctive slowdown in consumer demand. Quarter-to-date, comp sales are running negatively in approximately a 20% range.

We anticipate many of the operating dynamics we experienced in the fourth quarter, both industrywide and internal, to continue in the first quarter. As such, adjusted gross margin, we’re reflecting inflation headwinds that will not be fully offset by pricing in the near term. In terms of SG&A, as announced last quarter, we have initiated an expense reduction plan across fleet optimization, fixed costs and discretionary spending. With these, we expect lower SG&A spend versus prior year despite inflation. But still rate deleverage will occur, given our mid-term sales decline. We will continue to manage our cost and expense structure responsibly and prudently.

Adjusted EBITDA will likely be negative for the first quarter due to the factors I have just discussed. For the full year, we anticipate a sequential recovery in comps by the second half of the year, driven by a normalization in supply chain conditions, both within our own capabilities and in the broader macroeconomic environment.

Turning to gross margins. We’re expecting modest gross margin expansion for the full year. Gross margins in the second half of the year are anticipated to improve year-on-year as comparisons ease and supply chain conditions improve. Adjusted SG&A expense is expected to be approximately flat to last year with our planned $100 million optimization aiming to offset inflationary pressures. These dynamics should lead to adjusted EBITDA above prior year in the second half of 2022.

Our balance sheet and cash flow assumptions include capex of approximately $400 million with more than half associated with transformational investments, including the remodel and new store openings Mark discussed earlier. As noted, we have completed a $1 billion share repurchase program. Capital allocation for further share repurchases and debt reduction will be assessed in the second half of the year, given our outlook. We continue to remain focused on navigating the near-term, while investing in our foundational transformation through IT and supply chain capabilities, as well as business growth and investments to execute our strategy.

I will now turn the call over to Mark for some closing remarks.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you, Gustavo. Transformations are complex and often non-linear, but achieving a strategy of this scale amidst the current macroeconomic environment has made it even more difficult to deliver results commensurate with our efforts. The friction in these moments is real and we’re operating in a retail and consumer industry as challenges I have personally seen in my career outside of that critical COVID timeframe.

However, we remain steadfastly dedicated to our customer, our brand and our strategy. Even after the peak of COVID, we continued to see 35 million customers cherish our differentiated banners across Bed Bath & Beyond, buybuy BABY, Harmon and Decorist. We have a digital reach that saw more than 875 million visits throughout the year, further enabled by our powerful fleet of more than 900 evolving stores.

Fiscal 2021 was a year of reformation and establishment of key capabilities still in flight across our core strategic pillars. While our operational execution might have temporarily thwarted our short-term efforts, our long-term strategic execution continues to build sequential momentum. By the end of 2022, we will have structural capabilities to bring us closer to industry standards and greatly improve our proficiency to renew our business for long-term growth and profitability.

The core tenets of our strategy are sound and we will improve our operational deficits by learning from our experiences and leveraging the strength of our teams who I thank for their dedication and resilience.

We will now take questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

[Operator Instructions] And our first question is from Simeon Gutman from Morgan Stanley.

Hannah Pittock — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Hi, thanks for taking the question, and this is actually Hannah Pittock on for Simeon. Is there any commentary you can give us on the fourth quarter and quarter-to-date traffic versus ticket trends as well as like units per basket versus price per unit? And kind of within those metrics, where you see the most upside over the next quarter or two and the most downside? Thanks.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thanks, Hannah. We did see strength in our conversion rate at store level and in digital. We did see strength in terms of the average unit retail. Some of that was associated with the cost increases that we had implemented and in line with the industry inflation. And we did see some positive signs in terms of the basket in Q4. That, coming into Q1, has been a little suppressed based on some of the dynamics that we’re currently seeing but that gives us confidence that when we can get our inventory in place and when we get our communication aligned, that we have a good outreach with our existing and future customer base with good indicators there.

Hannah Pittock — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

[Technical Issues] Go ahead, Justin, your line is open.

Justin Kleber — Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc. — Analyst

Sorry, thanks guys. Can you hear me?

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yes. Sorry, who is on the line?

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Justin.

Justin Kleber — Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc. — Analyst

Yeah, it’s Justin Kleber at Baird.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Oh, thanks, Justin.

Justin Kleber — Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc. — Analyst

Thanks for taking the question. Mark, just first for you, the $175 million impact you cited from inventory, being trapped upstream, I guess how do you measure that figure? Are you looking at cart abandonments online? Just trying to understand how you know if you would have actually sold that inventory if it was on hand.

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hey, Justin, Gustavo here. We estimate this the same way we did in the third quarter. We look at lost sales at the store level. We know our in-stock in key items are significantly lower that they’ve been historically and we could calculate week by week and category by category and store by store how much we’ve lost on that. Similarly, on digital sales, we can track all of the out-of-stock views and the lost sales from those transactions. And keep in mind that when we do these estimates, we trim down. We assume that there’s going to be some transference as customers don’t find what they were looking for, but anyway compensate for a different item.

Justin Kleber — Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc. — Analyst

Okay. And then just one question, I’m curious what you guys are seeing in your wedding registry business. I know the deck mentioned you’re the Number 5 retailer in Baby registry. So specific to weddings, just how do [Phonetic] registry creates maybe compared to last year. And are you doing anything different within that business to capitalize on the expected wedding boom here in 2022. Thank you.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We’re seeing an uptick in wedding and baby creates. We actually have adjusted our outreach and the way that we were investing in this key business. I think that we see upward trends in wedding that everyone is expecting and we want to capitalize on that. So early indicators through the back end of Q4 on creates bodes well. And again, we just need to get our inventory in the stock to be able to facilitate that.

Justin Kleber — Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc. — Analyst

All right. Thank you, guys.

Operator

Your next question is from Michael Lasser from UBS.

Michael Lasser — UBS Investment Research — Analyst

Good morning. Thanks a lot for taking my question. So Mark, you talked a lot about the transformation plan and all the actions that Bed Bath has taken up until this point, yet traffic remains a key source of weakness. What is the plan for improving traffic from here, especially as Bed Bath & Beyond key customer demographic has really been aging as it’s resonated well with the baby boomer demographic over time?

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We actually have a multifaceted customer in our target there, Michael, and we have been working with that. Again, we have to get base inventory in line to be able to facilitate that. But we actually have got — been increasing our numbers in our loyalty cluster, which ensures that the customers are normally more sticky and they purchase a higher rate. That’s actually multi-generational, but we’ve been attracting registry, it’ll be a key tool in that. And we’re also working with an outreach to our lapsed customers and customers where we’re creating a high degree of change in the individual market. So a complete revision of our marketing and brand strategy to create an expanded profile on the customer base, but also a deeper, more personalized engagement with existing customers.

Operator

Your next question is from Steven Forbes from Guggenheim.

Steven Forbes — Guggenheim Securities LLC — Analyst

Good morning Mark, Gustavo. I wanted to focus on the banner level margin performance. So Mark, you mentioned buybuy BABY, mid-single-digit EBITDA for the full year. I was wondering how consistent that banner’s profitability was throughout the year, given the challenges that were noted. And more importantly, right, where the profitability of that banner is running today or where it was in the fourth quarter?

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Hey Steve, Gustavo here. Look, we’re not going to get into profitability by banner by quarter at this stage. But I can tell you, we’re very happy with the financial performance of buybuy BABY. As we said, we finished the year at $1.5 billion — $1.4 billion in revenue, growing double-digits with a mid-single-digit EBITDA margin. The four-wall profitability of this business is very attractive. We’re keenly focused on gross margin, as you may imagine. And the pattern there on gross margin of this business have been fairly consistent throughout the year.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

And our fourth quarter performance, Steve, was definitely in line with our plan.

Operator

Your next question is from William Reuter from Bank of America.

William Reuter — Bank of America — Analyst

Good morning. I have one question. In terms of your outlook for freight improving in the back half of the year, I can’t remember your contracting strategy. Are you contracting for this year? And have you entered into agreements that will kind of lock in some lower costs year-over-year?

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

We’re working actively, as always, on the reduction of our costs, William. We’re not going to comment on individual contract negotiations at this time. But we also have a lot of supply chain cost improvement that we can build in through the maturation of our supply chain transformation, which we said is a multi-year transformation, and we haven’t had that benefit to-date. We’ve done all the establishment work, but we haven’t had that transparency into it actualizing. So there’s both internal benefits and negotiated benefits that we’ll be working on throughout 2022.

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

And as we flow the product out of the warehouses, we would not expect to see port-related fees beyond the second quarter or so.

William Reuter — Bank of America — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

[Technical Issues]

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

I’m sorry, what was that?

Susie A. Kim — Investor Relations

Operator, we’re having a hard time hearing you.

Operator

We now have a question from Jason Haas from Bank of America.

Jason Haas — Bank of America Global Research — Analyst

Hey, good morning. Thanks for taking my question. So you have a large shareholder that put out a letter advocating for a pivot in the strategic, I guess, path for the company and also advocating for potential sale of the buybuy BABY unit. I think they put out — they think buybuy BABY is worth several billion dollars. So I’m curious what your thoughts are on — if there’s a need for a change in the strategic — strategy and just what you think of that valuation for buybuy BABY?

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Jason. Firstly, I think upon entering this company in late 2019, it was really clear that the business had been underinvested in and required a full-scale transformation and full-scale investment in the business. And we outlined a robust plan, and it had to be robust because of the level of work required to return us to a level of competition with our — the competitive retail market. I think the supply chain moment really exemplifies where other retailers are able to cope better than we are at this moment in time in this pivot because of that underinvestment, so a robust transformation plan. We cannot survive unless we implement that appropriately. And so technology, supply chain, assortment planning, pricing, the way we cost and where we source from, all these have been undertaken robustly. First year completed, benefit is not yet generated clearly.

So the strategy remains in place, and we’re always looking at our strategy with our Board and are open to ways that we can finesse that to improve. But we have to master a number of fundamentals through this transformational plan. So that stays as is. What we now have is that we have been talking to the Street and media for some time around buybuy BABY as an opportunity that is not showing its true value to a shareholder. And how do we unlock that?

And so the work began, and in January, our Board agreed to create a strategic committee, solely focused on what is the best way of unlocking the value of the buybuy BABY asset, which is a growth accelerator asset. And, as we’ve shared today, is performing very well, performing consistently and has a good, consistent profitability level. That work is in flight. We won’t be commenting on that, but we look forward to sharing more.

Operator

Your next question is from Jonathan Matuszewski from Jefferies.

Jonathan Matuszewski — Jefferies — Analyst

Great. Good morning. Thanks for taking my question. Just wanted to ask about the trends when comparing Bed Bath versus buybuy BABY. How much of a delta do you think is tied to a more domestic supply chain for buybuy BABY relative to maybe just a varying degree of demand across categories? And I guess relatedly, how did the in-stock rate look at a banner like buybuy BABY relative to core Bed Bath? Thanks so much.

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Jonathan. Great question. I think there’s a key differentiator first in the status of the business versus its LY trajectory. So in the year prior, we had execution issues, but also too, we had a lessening demand in BABY. I think parents were much more reticent to be out in stores and were shopping for basic needs rather than wants. We saw that pivot in the fourth quarter and throughout 2022 — 2021, actually. Our stores really bounced back with double-digit growth, which makes up for a more profitable outcome. Then the flip side of that is product availability.

And to your point, yes, there is more of a domestic source base currently in BABY versus Bed Bath & Beyond, which helped enable it, but it also has key categories like apparel, which we don’t have in Bed Bath that really turned back on in the second half. They were in stock and they’re more domestic currently in availability. So that worked in its favor. So, some LY crossing the borders there that helped as well as a differentiated merchandise mix, and therefore supply chain model.

Operator

And our final question is from Seth Basham from Wedbush.

Seth Basham — Wedbush Securities, Inc. — Analyst

Thanks a lot, and good morning. My question is around your customer count. At your Analyst Day, you talked to 40 million customers. Today, Mark, you talked to 35 million. So you’re down double-digits and I’m just trying to understand what’s driving that. Was it simply the COVID bump where you got a lot of new customers online that aren’t sticky, or are there other issues that you think are emerging that are leading customers to defect, so to speak?

Mark J. Tritton — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think it’s a great question, Seth. I think a couple of inferences there. I think you’re right. I think during the COVID moment, we definitely saw — in ’20 and ’21, a onetime customer that was searching digitally and that’s affected our customer count in the short term. I think second to that is that we had store closures. And inside of that, we were able to retain customers and have transference rate, but our overall penetration and the base of the customer was very different, and we expected some of that. I think what we’re seeing is a stabilization of that base and we’re really now investing in 2022 in those customers, both current and future. Things like our loyalty program and getting back into our proper cadence with our marketing outreach is part of that solution.

But there’s no doubt that during the early COVID moment, we were closed, right? So others were opened and some consolidation went on in that period. So we’re recovering out of that and we have plans to fortify that 35 million and make them stickier and build more new customers across multi-generations.

Gustavo Arnal — Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

And to Mark’s point of being stickier, a larger proportion of our customers now are omni, shopping both online and in store. And the frequency of shopping is much higher than when it was a store-only customer and with a larger ticket — basket. So — and that’s where the loyalty program is focused on.

Susie A. Kim — Investor Relations

Operator, I think we’re still having issues hearing you. I can speak for you. I think that is all the time we have today for calls. We’re available following today’s call. If you have any questions, please feel free to follow up with us. Thank you so much for listening today.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Disclaimer

This transcript is produced by AlphaStreet, Inc. While we strive to produce the best transcripts, it may contain misspellings and other inaccuracies. This transcript is provided as is without express or implied warranties of any kind. As with all our articles, AlphaStreet, Inc. does not assume any responsibility for your use of this content, and we strongly encourage you to do your own research, including listening to the call yourself and reading the company’s SEC filings. Neither the information nor any opinion expressed in this transcript constitutes a solicitation of the purchase or sale of securities or commodities. Any opinion expressed in the transcript does not necessarily reflect the views of AlphaStreet, Inc.

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