Many HomeBase stores have already been padlocked in the wake ofthe company's Tuesday announcement that it would permanently close22 of its stores and convert 62 others to House2Home stores. Thecompany's House2Home concept, in which everything from furniture towallpaper is sold under the same giant roof, made its debut at ahandful of Southern California locations earlier this year.

Though HomeBase's withdrawal is the first major casualty of thenation's fierce war between home-improvement stores, most expertsagree that it won't be the last. Despite signs that the HIindustry's revenue growth is slowing, most of the nation'shome-improvement chains--often anchor tenants in new retailprojects--continue to open stores at a fevered pitch.

In a way, HomeBase's fate was cast when archrivals Home Depotand Lowe's, the nation's two largest HI chains, each beganaggressive expansion efforts in Southern California. Home Depot'sSoCal charge began in earnest around 1998, while Lowe's joined thefray only last year.

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