Pink Swim Exit Drags on Victoria’s Secret

The lingerie brand is having trouble connecting with shoppers in its stores.

Victoria’s Secret is still struggling to pull itself back, posting only a 1 percent gain in March comparable sales — a modest improvement, especially since year-ago comps fell 13 percent.

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The powerhouse brand, which has been revamping its approach over the past couple years, was pulled down by its Pink business, which saw positive comps in lingerie, but is exiting the swim category. (The main Victoria’s Secret brand suffered steady declines as it exited swim and apparel to focus on its core business).

Amie Preston, chief investor relations officer, told investors on a call that Victoria’s Secret’s “merchandise margin rate was down significantly to last year, driven by additional promotional activity in order to drive traffic. In April, we will continue to deliver new fashion with Summer Angel in lingerie and loungewear in Pink.”

Most of the business’ weakness came from its stores, which saw comp sales fall 3 percent in the month, a decline that comes up top of the 12 percent drop a year ago.

Victoria’s Secret is owned by L Brands Inc., which was buoyed by its Bath & Body Works business, which comped up 10 percent for the month, pushing overall corporate result to a gain of 4 percent.

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Preston said, “Inventories per square foot ended the month up 15 percent versus last year, up 6 percent on a two-year basis, in line with expectations.” She also added that the earlier Easter compared with last year “will negatively impact total company April comps by about 2 to 3 points.”

Credit Suisse analyst Michael Binetti said the firm’s overall comps met his expectations but noted the build up in inventories would pressure first quarter earnings per share.

Shares of L Brands fell 4.6 percent to $36.17 Thursday, giving the company a market capitalization of $10.1 billion.