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Bed, Bath & Beyond’s closing days bring some deal hunters, but few deals

<i>Laura Oliverio/CNN</i><br/>Bed Bath & Beyond's 20% coupons will no longer be accepted beginning Wednesday.
Laura Oliverio/CNN
Bed Bath & Beyond's 20% coupons will no longer be accepted beginning Wednesday.

By Parija Kavilanz, CNN

Bed, Bath & Beyond is having a mammoth going-out-of-business sale. Shoppers Mariel Correa and Jeanette Graciano, clutching a handful of the retailer’s iconic blue-and-white 20% off coupons, weren’t going to miss a minute of it.

“I’m coming every day,” said Correa, as she strode the aisles of the 92,000-square-foot New York City flagship store with her coworker. “I want to get all the sales I can get until this store closes. I need a hamper, kitchen things, bedding. Did I tell you I really want a hamper?”

The nationwide chain declared bankruptcy over the weekend and said Tuesday was the final day for shoppers to use their famous coupons in its stores. Wednesday, the retailer transitioned to discount sales of leftover merchandise.

But in the store headquartered in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, shoppers were streaming in but rarely leaving with their shopping carts full; the store was missing any rush of fervent bargain-hunting. Graciano said she was there to score a few juicy deals but is also glad that the bankruptcy means she can finally get rid of all those coupons she’s been hoarding.

“I can throw these away after today,” said Graciano on Tuesday, the day the famous coupons expired.

She added, wistfully: “This is a good store and very conveniently located. I’m sad to see it go.”

The nationwide retailer, founded in 1971, has said it will now begin closing its remaining 360 Bed Bath & Beyond stores and 120 buybuy Baby locations. Bed Bath & Beyond has already shuttered 400 stores over the past year. It’s seeking to sell some, or all, of the business.

If it’s able to find a buyer, Bed Bath & Beyond will halt store closings. But if one doesn’t come forward, the company will likely be liquidated and go out of business.

Among the shoppers on Wednesday was 84-year-old Brooklyn resident Russell Millar, holding a hand-written list of items on a single sheet of yellow notepad paper.

“It was my birthday a couple of days ago and I wrote up this list,” he said. On it were items like a plastic soap dispenser, dish drainer, wash cloths, pillows and toilet paper.

He was also clutching a few of the retailer’s ubiquitous 20% coupons. “Someone gave them to me as I got here but I think it’s too late to use them,” he said.

Millar had rushed to the flagship store as soon as doors opened at 9 a.m. but was also left disappointed at the discounts. While there were some shelves stocked with seasonal clearance items, most of the stock was not deeply discounted. There were 20% to 25% sales on selected items, such as chair cushions, that were stocked on aisle endcaps.

Still, Miller said he didn’t want his trip to go to waste and would pick up whatever he could find on his list that was on sale.

Jonah Gelfand arrived at the flagship store Wednesday morning with his brother Zachery with two specific goals.

“I need to buy a new Brita water filter on sale. I got one for $30 three years ago from this same store so i’m hoping to score a better deal today,” he said. He’s also hoping to complete his wedding registry (he registered with another retailer) and pick up items that haven’t been bought.

Gelfand had already done a quick walk-through of the cavernous store and was disappointed. “Not much is on any deep sales,” he said.

So far, no Brita in his cart.

Several store employees who CNN spoke to declined to comment on when the liquidation sales would begin and how deep the discounting might be coming days and weeks.

While its Big Blue 20% coupons are already obsolete, Bed Bath & Beyond has set May 8 as the cutoff date for customers to use up their gift cards, gift certificates and merchandise credit.

This brought Manhattan resident Lauren (who requested that her last name not be used) to the same store on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to lose my credit so i’m here and I picked by a few things. Sadly, not on sale but I can’t wait for deals and then lose my store credit, too,” she said. She had loaded her shopping cart with an ice cream scoop, food-storage bags and large Ninja Foodi Cyclonic Grill that poked up above it.

End of an era: “I can throw these away after today”

A store employee who didn’t want to be named said he was told that, once products sold out, they would not be restocked. Another employee said he wasn’t sure when the liquidation sales would kick off at the store or how steep the discounts would be.

“It could be 30% to 70% but I’m not positive about that. We’re not told much,” said one other employee, who didn’t want to be named, because he was not authorized to speak about the sales.

Bed Bath & Beyond did not immediately respond to request for comment on the timing and level of liquidation discounts.

And as we left the store Wednesday, the bargain-hunting shoppers were still heading — but not rushing — in.

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