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  • Jennifer Marks

Neck and Neck

Despite Bed Bath & Beyond's recent hiccup — last month's lowering of second quarter expectations and the subsequent quivering of its stock price — it's worth noting that the company added more home textiles sales in sheer dollar terms last year than any other retailer in the country.

Bed Bath & Beyond's $310 million in additional sales rang in at nearly twice Wal-Mart's $176 million gain. It was three times larger than Target's $103 million bump. And it trumped the combined dollar gains of JCPenney, Ikea, Big Lots, Macy's Home and Williams-Sonoma.

Bed Bath crossed a milestone last year, breaking through another billion-dollar mark to ring up $3.04 billion in home textiles sales. If all the players among the top 10 net sales gainers maintain the same pace for the remainder of this year, Bed Bath would finish 2007 as the second largest home textiles seller in the nation — eclipsing longtime No. 2 JCPenney by nearly $200 million.

More interestingly, Bed Bath would further erode the distance between itself and Wal-Mart. That gap now stands at $600 million. If both retailers add the same amount of home textiles sales this year that they grabbed last year, Wal-Mart's lead would winnow to $466 million.

Target, in comparison, is moving rather slowly up the ladder. The retailer has been working to pump up its flabby home performance, but even at the rate it's going, Target should cross into $3 billion territory in three years or so. That's still pretty good considering it hopped the $2 billion mark just four years ago.

JCPenney, which had been steadily narrowing the gap between itself and Wal-Mart over the past few years, fell back sharply. The space between the pair's 2006 home textiles sales yawned to $575 million. In 2005, the difference between them was $492 million; in 2004 it was $508 million; in 2003 the gap had been $560 million.

The top 10 home textiles gainers by net sales growth constitute an eclectic bunch: specialty stores, discounters, off-pricers, junior department stores, and Macy's — the lone traditional department store among the lot. All but three operate off the mall.

I'll be darned if I can find a common thread among them, save the concept of value — and that's a wildly relevant notion in such mixed company.

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