Things aren’t getting any better at Victoria’s Secret — and now chief executive officer Jan Singer is out.
A source close to the company confirmed Wednesday that Singer had resigned.
Singer, who previously served as ceo of intimates and shapewear company Spanx and as corporate vice president of global apparel at Nike Inc., left her post after only two years. She was hired to help revive the core lingerie business, replacing former ceo Sharen Jester Turney, who served in the role for 10 years.
The move “could be one more initiative aimed at a much-needed strategy shift at [L Brands Inc.] and their beleaguered [Victoria’s Secret] concept,” said Ike Boruchow, an analyst at Wells Fargo, in a research note.
Victoria’s Secret, a division of L Brands, is still the market leader in intimates, but has been wrestling with strategy shifts and declining sales for some time. Online sales at Victoria’s Secret were flat in October, while in-store sales fell 7 percent. L Brands’ stock is also down roughly 40 percent for the year and all of the firm’s growth lately has come from its Bath & Body Works business.
During her tenure at Victoria’s Secret, Singer focused on moving away from the unattainable airbrushed image and building bras that balanced functionality with fashion. Just before she arrived, the brand discontinued its swimwear and catalogue businesses.
“We all love competition. It makes us stronger,” Singer said during a 2017 conference call. “What I love about our business is…we are able to offer choices for [the customer]. Being fitted for a bra is a unique experience…there’s nothing that can replace that engagement with a customer.”
There’s no word yet who the new ceo will be and L Brands, which is set to release third-quarter earnings on Nov. 19, would not comment on the departure, only to say that more news would possibly be released during next Tuesday’s conference call.
Some analysts have speculated that the company will bring back its lucrative swimwear business in an attempt to drive sales. The company also said this year it would close its Henri Bendel business and is exploring options for La Senza.
“It’s clear they’re taking some pretty aggressive steps to try to improve the business,” said Ed Yruma, managing director at KeyBanc Capital Markets. “The question is, is [Victoria’s Secret] pivoting too slowly?”
In fact, Victoria’s Secret has not closed any of its North American stores, continues to carry large amounts of inventory and hold promotional sales.
The company “has been very set in their ways, appearing somewhat dismissive of the need to change,” the Wells Fargo note states.
“This is a company that needs to change,” Boruchow said. “We haven’t seen any baby steps at Victoria’s Secret. That’s what investors want to see. The brand has struggled so badly in a healthy environment.”
He pointed out that profitability was reduced by half after Singer took over the brand, but by improving margins the company could be “the next turnaround.”
Others say the company’s resistance to incorporating more realistic models into the company’s image is causing its downfall.
But Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a retail advisory firm, said there are still a lot of women that the brand speaks to, women who “just want to look good in their lingerie.”
“Maybe it’s a smaller group than it was 10 or 15 years ago, but it’s still a lot,” Corlett said.
Either way, Victoria’s Secret’s new leader will need to work on changing the company’s tone at least a little bit as it works to appeal to younger consumers, “or else the customers are going to age out,” Boruchow said.
In addition, the incoming ceo will need to be a shrewd judge of who the next generation of customers are, what they want and how to sell to them.
“That person will have to be very good at stemming losses,” said Simeon Siegel, retail analyst at Nomura Securities. “It’s not reasonable to assume that a $3 billion business isn’t making any money. Victoria’s Secret is likely overselling and under earning. Now they have to decide how big of a business they want to be.”
The stock fell modestly after word of Singer’s departure was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, ultimately closing 3 cents in the red to $36.83.