Victoria’s Secret’s comparable sales are likely to fall about 20% this month parent company L Brands said on Wednesday, igniting fear among investors that the brand’s turnaround attempt is unraveling. Shares in the company, which also owns Bath & Body Works, fell 12% in after hours trading.
Victoria’s Secret has been in turmoil for more than a year now as it looks to reinvent itself in an ever more crowded apparel field. Last February, star executive Sharen Turney was ousted as the brand’s CEO, and Victoria’s Secret dropped some categories like swimwear and discontinued its print catalogs. (Without those moves, the February drop would be more like 14%.) At the time, L Brands warned investors that results would be bumpy until it found its legs again.
The brand, though far from a high-end name, is part of pop culture thanks to an annual lingerie show that is broadcast on national television and attracts some of the biggest names in pop, including Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj. On Turney’s watch, Victoria’s Secret’s annual revenue rose to nearly $8 billion in the fiscal year that ended in February 2016. But more recently it has been battling with the emergence of athleisure and better bra offerings from the like of American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie and Gap Body.
And the parent company’s 2017 forecast suggested little relief was coming for a brand that not long ago could do no wrong.
L Brands expects to earn between 20 cents and 25 cents per share in the first quarter, compared with the 49 cents per share expected by Wall Street analysts, according to Thomson Reuters. For the full year, the retailer forecast a profit of $3.05 and $3.35 a share, below analysts’ projection of $3.70 a share.
The company forecast comparable sales will have fallen a mid-to-high-teens decline in February, which includes the crucial Valentine’s Day occasion for the lingerie industry, well below its prior forecast of a mid-single digit decrease, largely because of Victoria’s Secret’s problems. The brand generates 70% of L Brands’ total revenue.