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Victoria’s Secret is on a tear, having just posted its 24th consecutive month of comparable-store sales gains. The last time the chain posted a negative monthly comps result was December 2009, when it was down 6 percent.
The chain’s solid performance is one reason its parent, Limited Brands Inc., is on a growth trajectory.
Limited said this month that VS posted an 11 percent jump in comps in December. According to Christian Buss, analyst at Credit Suisse, “Comps were balanced across the assortment.…Victoria’s Secret Direct sales were up 6 percent, driven by Pink, active, dresses, swim and sleepwear.”
For 2011, Victoria’s Secret’s average comp-store gain was 15.7 percent, with the retailer’s best months in January, when it posted a 35 percent rise in comps, and April, when comps were up 25 percent.
In 2010, its average comps rise was 12.7 percent, with its best performing month in March, up 19 percent. Two months, January and June, saw comps grow 17 percent.
So what’s the real secret?
Stifel Nicolaus retail analyst Richard E. Jaffe noted that Victoria’s Secret was able to “drive significant traffic with limited promotions, likely benefiting margin in the quarter.” He said promotional activity for holiday 2011 was planned down to the levels of holiday 2010, and that an improved gift assortment at Pink was effective at driving sales.
According to Limited Brands’ Form 10Q filed for the third quarter on Dec. 2 with the Securities and Exchange Commission, operating income for Victoria’s Secret rose 21.1 percent to $149 million from $123 million for the comparable quarter in 2010. For fiscal year 2010, operating income for Victoria’s Secret rose 51.5 percent to $877 million from $579 million in 2009, according to a Form 10K filed with the SEC on March 18, 2011.
Overall, Victoria’s Secret hit $5.92 billion in sales in 2010.
Limited Brands won’t post fourth-quarter and 2011 full-year results until the latter part of February. In the third quarter ended Oct. 29, Victoria’s Secret’s U.S. stores posted a 13 percent same-store sales gain, a 12 percent sales increase to $942 million, and an 8 percent rise in sales for its direct channel, to $277 million, according to Sharen Turney, chief executive officer and president of Victoria’s Secret Megabrand and Intimate Apparel, during the quarter’s conference call to Wall Street.
Turney said third-quarter launches contributing to the gains included the Showstopper bra, the Pink Heartbreaker bra, the Unforgettable bra and the Gorgeous bra. Complementing its bra launches was that of its Gorgeous fragrance, which helped drive multiple sales for the bra and fragrance categories.
There doesn’t appear to be any slowdown ahead, provided the management team continues executing its game plan.
Analyst Jennifer Black, head of her namesake firm, predicted growth at Victoria’s Secret will come from its core business and increasing “adjacent categories like VSX, loungewear and swim.” She noted that currently only 10 percent of Victoria’s Secret stores in the U.S. have the full Pink assortment.
“Pink is a huge opportunity for growth for the company,” she said.
Black believes the firm has the potential for ramping up the Pink business to “$1 billion in sales — it’s currently at $500 million — with significantly more potential over the next five years. Additional categories within Victoria’s Secret include loungewear, which could reach $1 billion in sales, as well as Victoria’s Secret beauty, which could reach $2.5 billion in sales.