What are men and boys to do? Another print publication filled with bodacious babes may soon be downgraded — this time, the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.
L Brands Inc., the retailer’s parent, on Thursday revealed a restructuring at Victoria’s Secret aimed at focusing on its core operations. As part of that, a source said the company will reduce its focus on the catalogue business as customers migrate to e-commerce.
The moves are the first taken since L Brands’ founder, chairman and chief executive officer Leslie H. Wexner took over as Victoria’s Secret’s ceo in February.
The company was mum on details of its plans for the catalogue, but the number it has printed has been declining over the years. Victoria’s Secret hit a peak of 400 million catalogue mailings in 1998, but by 2000 that had dropped to 368 million. This was the last time the company commented on the distribution number. In August, former ceo Sharen Turney said the company was going “to continue to elevate our catalogue.” It seems Wexner’s first move after taking over from Turney is to scale back on the catalogue.
L Brands had already been reducing its catalogue costs, from $474 million in 2011 to $414 million last year. Even though the company gets a discount for bulk mailing, the United States Postal Service said in January that rates would increase an average of 9.5 percent. In addition to that, wood pulp and paper prices hit historical highs in 2015. According to IBISWorld, they will continue growing over the next three years at a rate of 2.1 percent a year.
“Catalogue is a huge expense — from models to paper to shipping. Given the shift in online, I am not surprised, but they need to be careful as to not alienate their current customer base, which is tricky,” said Farla Efros, president of HRC Advisory. “The current customer base, although smaller, is very loyal and that customer may not be too savvy to switch to online. Catalogues also have more uses in people’s home as to viewing and reviewing, etc.”
Just ask many teenagers and young men, who often got the catalogues themselves (or stole their mother’s or sister’s) in order to spend time admiring the Angels. Now they’ll have to go online even more — and wait for the annual Victoria’s Secret television extravaganza (which also is live-streamed online).
As for the rest of the retailer’s restructuring, L Brands said Thursday the company will be three business units: Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Pink and Victoria’s Secret Beauty. The leaders of each business unit will report directly to Wexner.
The company will eliminate certain merchandise categories as it focuses on the areas with the greatest growth potential. The direct business will be integrated within Victoria’s Secret and Pink as the company tries to align this channel with the way customers engage with the brands.
As reported by WWD on Wednesday, the company will cut 200 jobs as a result of the reorganization. A source confirmed the company was reducing its focus on the catalogue business as customers migrate to online shopping.
The company said it would give additional details on the changes when it reports first-quarter earnings on May 19.
“Coming off a record year, now is the best time to make improvements…going from best to even better,” said Wexner. “We are making these changes to accelerate our growth and to strengthen the business for the long term by narrowing our focus and simplifying our operating model. I am certain that these changes are necessary for our industry-leading brands to reach their significant potential…nonetheless, decisions about people are the most difficult ones to make, and we are taking care to support associates who are being affected by these changes.”
In addition to the restructuring, L Brands reported that March net sales increased 5 percent to $1.03 billion for the five weeks ending April 2, over last year’s $981.2 million. Comparable sales increased 3 percent and took a hit from the earlier Easter by 1 to 2 points, but they still topped the Thomson Reuters estimate for an increase of 2 percent. Victoria’s Secret saw growth in Pink and Lingerie, but the Beauty business declined.
Bath & Body Works March comp sales increased 5 percent, but this was lower than last year’s increase of 9 percent. The early Easter hurt sales, but that was offset by increases in the direct channel. L Brands said customers were responding well to the new “Aloha Hawaii” floor set. The company will transition to the spring theme in mid-April with new and seasonal fragrances.
L Brands said since Easter negatively affected March, comps in April should be up by low- to midsingle digits. In April, L Brands will focus on delivering new fashion in the “Bralette” category and Pink Wear Everywhere.