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  • Warren Shoulberg

Bed Bath: It can drive more than 55

Morristown, N.J. – Bed Bath & Beyond put on a full-court press at its annual meeting here this morning – at least by its low-key standards – to tell Wall Street and others that it is still a great company with plenty of upside potential.

In its cursory comments to shareholders at the meeting – at 29 minutes, nearly twice the length of its usual annual quickie – and in announcements of a $2 billion stock buyback and an SEC filing giving it the option to secure additional financing, the company stressed that its recent poor stock performance (as low as $55 a share, down from its 52-week high of $80) is not a sign of a declining business.

“There’s never been a better time in our company’s history than right now,” said co-chairman and co-founder Len Feinstein to the dozen or so people gathered for the meeting.

Those comments were reiterated by ceo Steve Temares responding to questions after the meeting. “We take a long-term view on profitability, a holistic approach,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for the company … We want to be one of the great companies.”

The company has come under great pressure after announcing disappointing quarterly results last week, missing analyst targets, while facing historically high SGA that it says is the result of significant investments in both physical and technological infrastructure. It said some of the investments are aimed directly at its online business unit, which is generally acknowledged – though not by the company itself – to be underperforming.

As is its trademark style, there were few specifics either during the meeting or afterwards, but a few pieces of information did come out:

•It will open 30 stores across all its nameplates this year and it still believes the Bed Bath & Beyond universe can handle another 300 units, up from the current total of just over 1,000.

• Its ongoing transition in its Christmas Tree division to give it a broader name continues. New stores that open in existing markets will get the Christmas Tree and That! name while stores opening in new markets will just be called And That!

• It will continue to open Cost Plus World Market stores both with alcohol and wine departments and without, depending on local licensing laws.

•Online Bed Bath carries some 140,000 skus, while the typical physical store has between 12,000 and 14,000 items.

• The company will add a fifth store to its joint venture in Mexico this physical year, bringing that total to five.

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