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As Sears crumbles, Penney's and Best Buy want to pick up the pieces

$310 million.

That's how much revenue tumbled at Sears' U.S. stores during the second quarter, the company said Thursday — and its competitors can smell the blood.

Once recognized as the go-to destination for dishwashers and refrigerators, Sears gave up an estimated $1 billion in major appliance sales last year, according to analysis by TWICE and The Stevenson Company.

Now third to home improvement powerhouses Lowe's and Home Depot, Sears' share of the "white goods" market fell to 19.5 percent last year, according TWICE. That compares with 23.5 percent in 2014, and about 40 percent in its heyday two decades ago.

But Lowe's and Home Depot aren't the only ones that sense opportunity. As part of its reinvention under CEO Marvin Ellison, J.C. Penney is rolling out the category to 500 of its stores this year, with plans to expand it across more of the 1,000-store chain in 2017. And Best Buy, which is building out appliance-focused stores within its stores, reported its 23rd straight quarter of comparable-sales growth in the category earlier this week.

Aided by both Sears' demise and booming housing market, the growing appliance category hasn't gotten too crowded — yet. Not only are all four retailers growing their share, but Euromonitor predicts the $38 billion major appliance space will grow 31 percent from 2015 through 2020. That would put some $12 billion up for grabs.

Much of the category's potential over the next few years will rely on strength in the housing market, and to what degree millennials move outside of the city, Euromonitor analyst Ryan Tuttle said.

Which retailers win and lose will depend on their in-store and digital...