Victoria’s Secret Owner Drops on Disappointing Holiday Sales

Updated on
  • Results renew concerns about L Brands’ turnaround bid
  • While sales grew last month, they missed analysts’ estimates

The holidays weren’t especially kind to L Brands Inc., the owner of Victoria’s Secret.

Shares of the company fell as much as 15 percent on Thursday, the most in 10 months, after it reported disappointing same-store sales for December. The retailer’s updated profit forecast for the fourth quarter also was below estimates.

The latest results renew concerns about L Brands’ turnaround efforts, which have been hampered by shifting consumer preferences and falling foot traffic at stores. As part of the comeback bid, Victoria’s Secret Chief Executive Officer Jan Singer has said the company will focus more on core products such as push-up bras. It also has embraced a fast-fashion model for its panties, in which styles are updated more frequently.

“Its main Victoria’s Secret brand is not what it was in its heyday,” Randal Konik, an analyst at Jefferies LLC, said in a note to clients. “With more competition each day from other specialty players and digital players and even Amazon, Victoria’s Secret has no more pricing power. That presents a major problem for the company being able to drive sales growth over the long term.”

Konik has an underperform rating on the stock.

L Brands’ December comparable sales climbed 1 percent, short of analysts’ estimate of 1.4 percent. Retailers, which have been buffeted by the rise of e-commerce and quickly changing preferences, have been banking on a holiday rebound. While initial data show shoppers returned to stores for the Christmas season, not all retailers were able to capture that growth.

L Brands sees fourth-quarter profit, excluding some items, of $2 a share, short of analysts’ estimate of $2.05. The forecast is before the effect of any one-time items, such as the U.S. tax overhaul.

The stock hit a low of $49.15 in New York. It dropped 8.5 percent in 2017.

Mall Traffic

For Victoria’s Secret, which has around 1,200 stores, foot traffic in malls is particularly important. The drop in this measure has coincided with new competition from specialty retailers like American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. in the intimates category, further complicating the retailer’s outlook.

John Morris, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets, said Victoria’s Secret ratcheted up its discounting in December, which hurt merchandise margins and may signal that the chain had too much inventory. At the same time, the company appears to have largely missed out on a rise in mall visits at the end of 2017, he said.

“The top-line number likely disappointed investors as expectations for the holiday selling period were strong,” Morris said in a note to clients.

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