There were some glimmers of hope and gains — adjusted or otherwise — in the November sales reports from Gap Inc. and L Brands Inc.
Gap said its overall comparable sales fell 1 percent, but that a fire at its Fishkill, N.Y., distribution center — which was ruled arson — pulled that number down by about 3 percentage points, giving the firm an adjusted gain versus the 8 percent drop from a year ago.
And L Brands said even as it refocuses, comparable sales rose 4 percent last month, with a 5 percent increase at Victoria’s Secret and a 4 percent rise at Bath & Body Works. Excluding the swim and apparel businesses, which Victoria’s Secret is phasing out of in order to focus on its core lingerie offering, the brand’s comps rose 8 percent.
On the broader retail scene, footfall remains a big concern as shoppers remain generally unenthused by fashion and are turning increasingly to the web to buy.
Sabrina Simmons, chief financial officer at Gap Inc., said, “While November traffic trends remained challenging, we are encouraged that performance improved in the back half of the month and we remain focused on executing our holiday plans.”
Gap brand comps fell 3 percent (with a 4 percentage point hit from the fire), while Banana Republic gained 5 percent (with a 3 percentage point hit), and Old Navy’s comps fell 2 percent (with a 1 percentage point hit).
Shares of Gap slipped 1.2 percent to $24.75 as traders reacted to the after-hours report. L Brands, which gave its sales update in the morning, saw its stock rise 2.9 percent to $72.26 in regular trading.
Leslie H. Wexner, L Brands’ longtime chief executive officer, took direct control of Victoria’s Secret this year and is refocusing the brand on its lingerie offering amid a big international push.
He told investors last month that L Brands is at an “inflection point” and Victoria’s Secret was now on the right path. (The firm overall is projecting sales growth of 7 to 10 percent, starting in the second half of next year as it cycles through the merchandising changes and weens itself off of promotions.)
“We had to make changes and in hindsight, the changes that we have made, I wish we had taken those actions two years ago, or three,” Wexner said. “In hindsight, there was ample opportunity to change things dramatically.”
And some things haven’t changed, even if they moved to a new venue.