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Bed Bath & Beyond boosts its forecast

UNION, N.J. — Closing the books on another strong year of sales and earnings growth, Bed Bath & Beyond late yesterday raised its earnings guidance for fiscal year 2004 to a range of $1.53 to $1.56 per share.

The previous consensus figure had been $1.53 per share. The retailer also raised its first quarter earnings guidance to $1.25 per share, 1 cent above consensus.

The company will open 80 to 90 new stores this year, and will nearly double first quarter openings to 16 Bed Bath & Beyond units, according to Ron Curwin, chief financial officer and treasurer. Net sales in new stores are expected to run $160 to $185 per square foot during the first 12 months of operation, he added.

While most new stores have been producing sales at the high end of the range, company president and CEO Steve Temares cautioned analysts against applying that formula too rigidly.

"Many of these models are built with incomplete data and will produce non-comparable results from quarter to quarter since they do not consider many factors such as the timing, size and promotional calendar of new stores," Temares said. "For example, in any quarter in which we experience a much heavier and later store opening schedule compared to the prior year, most new store productivity models would show a decline in new store productivity based on timing alone."

New boxes in 2004 also are likely to be slightly larger, said Leonard Feinstein, co-chairman. That marks a shift from the past two years during which the company has opened smaller stores in smaller and fill-in markets. Feinstein said the larger units result from the needs of the markets themselves — which hints at more urban and large-market siting in 2004 — as well as "ongoing merchandising advancements."

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