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Bed Bath ups profits 25 percent

UNION, N.J. — Still building sales at a double-digit pace, at the same time bulking up margins and hacking away at costs, Bed Bath & Beyond pushed first quarter profits up 25.5 percent, to $181 million from $144.2 million last year.

Pouring it on at the top line, the retailer drove sales higher 13.1 percent, to $1.5 billion from $1.3 billion last year. Same-store sales improved 5.1 percent, building on a gain of 8.1 percent during the fourth quarter of last year.

Driving the earnings improvement, in addition to stronger sales, was a winning combination of fatter margins and thinning costs. Dropping cash to the bottom line at an unexpectedly rapid pace, average gross margin improved 90 basis points, or nine-tenths of a percentage point, to 44.3 percent from 43.4 percent a year ago.

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