Victoria’s Secret made some progress in February — posting a modest 2 percent comparable-sales gain after a 16 percent drop a year earlier — but those gains came from the lingerie retailer’s web site and not its stores.
Comps at just Victoria’s Secret stores continued to fall, dropping 6 percent after a 16 percent decline in February 2017. (Comps at Pink, which is reported as part of Victoria’s Secret, were flat).
Bath & Body Works, the retailer’s corporate sibling at L Brands Inc., fared much better. Its total comps rose 7 percent, compared with a 4 percent drop a year ago, and its stores on their own comped up 5 percent after a 6 percent drop in February 2017.
Victoria’s Secret has been working to remake its business, ditching the apparel and swim categories, pushing international and focusing on its core bra and panty business.
On a recorded call, a spokeswoman said Victoria’s Secret’s merchandise margin rate for the month “was down significantly to last year, driven by additional promotional activity in order to drive traffic.”
“In March, we will continue our focus on spring break and deliver new fashion with our Dream Angels collection,” the spokeswoman said.
L Brands also said it had authorized a new $250 million share repurchase program, which includes the remaining $23.1 million left over from the prior program. But investors wanted more and shares of the firm fell 5.3 percent to $41.62 Thursday.
To try to get more out of its stores this year — Victoria’s Secret has 984 U.S. locations and Pink has 140 U.S. doors — L Brands is sweetening its associates paycheck and benefits.
Stuart Burgdoerfer, executive vice president and chief financial officer, told analysts last month that: “Following an extensive evaluation of our wage rates by market, we are making investments in our workforce by increasing wage rates and benefits, principally for hourly associates. These investments will help us continue to attract and retain high-quality talent and be an employer of choice.”
All told, the company’s workers will get an extra $100 million this year.