Victoria’s Secret just isn’t that sexy right now.
The retailer, which includes Pink, the retail chain and e-commerce, said June comparable sales fell 1 percent on top of a 17 percent drop a year earlier. For the first six months of the year, the brand’s comps were flat after a 15 percent decline for the first half of 2017.
“Growth in beauty was offset by declines in lingerie and Pink,” said Amie Preston, chief investor relations officer, on a recorded call. “[The] semiannual sale had a soft start with negative traffic levels. In response, we extended the sale time period versus last year by about two weeks and reduced pricing to drive traffic and clear inventory, which resulted in merchandise margin rates down significantly to last year.”
Despite the weakness, Victoria’s Secret is still the dominant lingerie merchant, with sales of $7.39 billion last year and many have been looking for the company — ultimately led by L Brands’ chief executive officer Leslie Wexner — to use its position and retail savvy to stage a comeback.
But a return to the va-va-voom glory days has been elusive as the firm has ditched swim and apparel, axed its catalogue and tweaked its promotional stance, only to leave wiggle room to reverse those strategies as it feels its way forward.
“Victoria’s Secret is just really struggling, they can’t sell anything at full price, their margins continue to go south,” said Ike Boruchow, a Wells Fargo retail analyst. “It could be the brand needs a makeover. It could be younger customers are finding other options. It could be the marketing needs to be addressed. The brand is not resonating like it used to. I honestly think there needs to be some change, I know there’s been change, but I think there needs to be more strategic change.”
For now, shareholders are waiting.
“Investors were looking for a ‘hope’ trade into this month and were then disappointed and reminded that things are stuck,” said Simeon Siegel, retail equity analyst at Instinet Equity Research.
“The trend has changed, the way companies market has changed and the size of brands have changed and to their credit, Victoria’s Secret held on a lot longer than most brands and retailers in the mall,” Siegel said. “Had this happened in 2014, it wouldn’t have been special, it would have been, ‘OK, the mall is rolling over.’ What’s more interesting is it’s happening now…as the mall is bouncing back.”
The question now is just how long the retailer going to stay stuck.
“The notion that Victoria’s Secret will return to growth seems like a hard story to check the box on,” Siegel said. “However the idea that they’re about the fall off a the cliff seems just as hard to believe.”
That leaves room for competitors, especially American Eagle’s Aerie, to chip away at its still-leading market share.