The decline ensured that shares trailed the broader market's 10% rise, but the company fared better than many peers in a retailing industry pinched by slumping customer traffic.
Bed Bath & Beyond was up by as much as 7% early in the year, but those gains morphed into losses as operating trends worsened. Its first quarterly report of the year showed a healthy 2% boost in comparable-store sales and gross profit margin of 38%.
Subsequent announcements weren't as rosy. Bed Bath & Beyond's comps fell in each of the next three quarters as gross profit margin slipped to 37% of sales. Overall, the company believes comps will fall by about 1% for the full fiscal year.
Declining customer traffic is proving to be a huge challenge for the retailer. It can lessen the negative impact from the dearth of shoppers by improving its merchandising and thus boosting average spending per visit. But that's a tough balance to strike because higher prices tend to drive customers away.
The e-commerce sales channel shows more promise, given that it grew by over 20% in every quarter of 2016. Yet this expansion comes at a price, too. Capital expenditures are up to nearly $425 million from $329 million last year.
Thanks to falling profit margins and increasing costs, Bed Bath & Beyond appears set to earn just $4.50 per share for the fiscal year that ends in February, 2017, for its lowest annual result since 2012. Under those circumstances, it's hard to see the stock price rebounding -- at least until comps growth returns and investors start seeing financial benefits from management's e-commerce spending spree.