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Bed Bath eyes international growth

Typically tightlipped Bed Bath & Beyond spilled few details at its annual meeting here late last month, though it did say it has considered expanding internationally and is currently conducting extensive research in several countries, according to co-chairman and co-ceo Warren Eisenberg.

"It's something we're looking into all the time," said Eisenberg. The company opened its first location outside of the United States last year in Puerto Rico.

The retailer also said that it was attracted to Harmon Stores, the 28-unit HBA retailer it acquired in March, because it has the same customer as Bed Bath & Beyond, said co-chairman and co-ceo Leonard Feinstein.

"We think we made the right decision," said Eisenberg. "We like the product, the stores and the people running the company." He added that Bed Bath & Beyond was able to retain the top management of Harmon.

After the meeting, the retailer remained mum on its merchandising initiatives. However, recent visits to its locations in New York and Nanuet, NY, have revealed higher-quality bedding offerings. Sheets now include an 800-count program, constructed in the United States of fabric made in China, and retailing for $170 for a queen set, as well as pure linen sheets from Shavel. President Steve Temares declined to provide details on the sheet programs, though he did say that the retailer targets merchandise for a particular market.

Not surprisingly, Bed Bath & Beyond had an outstanding year in 2001, increasing net sales by 22 percent and comp-store sales by 7.1 percent. It also opened a record 85 new stores, for a 24.6 percent store base increase. This year it plans to top that with 88 new openings for a total of 484 stores by the end of the fiscal year.

However, the company still holds a small portion of the $75 billion home goods market, Feinstein said during the meeting, though "we're getting more and more market share because customers choose to shop us rather than anyone else." But the company, which feels that the United States can sustain a store base of 950 units, has both the money and the organization to "explore other growth opportunities," he added. "The gap between us and our competitors is widening … We're well on our way to make 2002 a record year."

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