Devon Windsor on the catwalkVictoria's Secret Fashion Show, Runway, Grand Palais, Paris, France - 30 Nov 2016
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Digital Daily issue 03/03/2017

Victoria’s Secret’s February comparable sales weren’t quite as bad as advertised, but still amounted to a tough slog for the sex-infused brand.

This story first appeared in the March 3, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The lingerie chain’s comps fell 16 percent month. That’s not as sharp a decline as the “about 20 percent” the company’s parent, L Brands Inc., projected for the business just last week. (L Brands generally clears the bar it sets for Wall Street by an easier margin, setting expectations at a manageable level).

Victoria’s Secret has been rejiggering its business and last year exited swim and apparel categories, shaving 8 percentage points off its comp result for the month.

L Brands said mall traffic fell by 11 percent last month after declining by 6 percent in January.

The company’s chief executive officer Leslie H. Wexner took the reins of Victoria’s Secret last year and has been navigating the brand through a tough year. In addition to exiting swim and apparel, the company has been working to build the lower margin bralette and sports bra categories and tweaking its promotional approach.

Stuart Burgdoerfer, chief financial officer and executive vice president, told analysts after weighing in with less than stellar fourth-quarter earnings that, “We’re not satisfied with our overall results.”

L Brand’s overall comp sales for the month fell 13 percent, with Victoria’s Secret’s declines tempered by a 4 percent comp drop at Bath & Body Works.

Wexner told analysts last year that even after great success, retailers must inevitably turn the page.

“Fashion retailing is one of change,” Wexner said. “When you catch the wind, the cycles last eight or 10 years and then you have to constantly say, ‘How do I change this?’”

That’s a question most retailers are being forced to ask right now.

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