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NEW YORK-Megastores Bed Bath & Beyond and Linens 'n Things continue to steal market share from department stores, with each topping sales of $1 billion last year.

And the race to be the nation's home furnishings superstore destination is heating up.

According to several retail industry analysts, there is still plenty of room for more bed and bath superstores, which is good news to the two chains. In fact, some see room for at least 400 more stores, since around 200 metropolitan areas still don't have either a Bed Bath & Beyond or a Linens 'n Things. (Competition in the category has grown even fiercer in light of the recently unveiled Waccamaw/HomePlace merger, which created a 120-store, 27-state home furnishings retailer.)

While Linens 'n Things is ahead in terms of store count, Bed Bath & Beyond is generating more sales. At the end of fiscal year 1998, Linens 'n Things' 196 stores in 38 states generated $1.07 billion, according to the company. By comparison, Bed Bath & Beyond raked in $1.4 billion via its 186 stores (in 34 states) for its 1998 fiscal year.

The Union, N.J.-based Bed Bath & Beyond recorded net income gains of 30 percent to $97.3 million, compared with Linens 'n Things' $38.1 million in net income, up from $25.8 million. Neither company returned calls seeking comment.

Opening 45 stores in 1998, Bed Bath & Beyond doesn't plan on slowing down its rate of expansion. It has slated 50 new superstores for this year, in both new and existing markets, according to a company statement. Last year it opened its first store in Nevada, and this year will enter Arkansas, Louisiana and Rhode Island.

Linens 'n Things' expansion pace is decidedly slower. In 1998, it opened 25 stores while shuttering 18. Linens 'n Things has been converting to the superstore format. No information on planned 1999 store openings was available at press time.

Over the past several years both retailers have been moving their product mix away from the "bed" and toward the "things" side of the home furnishings business. Both are near a fifty-fifty mix between soft goods and hard goods. Linens 'n Things, which until the early 1990s carried only linens, has stated that it wants housewares to account for half of its business.

The Clifton, N.J.-based retailer had estimated that 1998 housewares sales would exceed $500 million. (The company would not release the sales breakdown.) Chief executive Norman Axelrod said in a statement that the company attributed its strong holiday 1998 sales in part to the "continued growth of the `things' business."
Facts at a Glance

 Bed Bath & Beyond Linens 'n Things

Total Stores 186 196

No. of States In 34 38

1998 Sales $1.397b $1.066b

1998 Net Income $97.3m $38.1m

Source: Company Reports
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Article Details
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Author:Vincenti, Lisa
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 5, 1999
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