L Brands Comps Continue to Fall

Hurricanes and the exit of swim and apparel hurt the company’s turnover, sending comps down 2 percent in September.

L Brands Inc. is still trying to get its mojo back.

The Victoria’s Secret parent said its comparable sales fell 2 percent in September, while net sales for the five weeks rose 1 percent, to $981.6 million.

The exit of swim and apparel took about 2 percentage points off the company’s total sales and the hurricanes in September took off another 1 percentage point.

At its investor meeting in November, the company said it would continue to show weakness as it cycled through its exit of the swim and apparel categories, but sales would start to grow by 7 percent to 10 percent in the second half of this year.

For the year so far, the company said its comp sales are down 7 percent. And the weakness is expected to continue this month, when overall comps are seen as down in the low-single digits.

L Brands’ chairman and chief executive officer, Leslie Wexner, has been reimagining the powerhouse Victoria’s Secret approach, arguing that course corrections are always necessary — even for the brand known for its splashy runway show.

“Fashion retailing is one of change,” Wexner said at an investor meeting in November. “When you catch the wind, the cycles last eight or 10 years and then you have to constantly say, ‘How do I change this?’”

At Victoria’s Secret, he said: “The brand just got older with the customer….We had to make changes and, in hindsight, the changes that we have made I wish we had taken those actions two years ago, or three. In hindsight, there was ample opportunity to change things dramatically.”

Time will tell if the new formula, which in addition to narrowing the brand’s focused also tightens up its promotional approach, is the right one.

But Wall Street’s getting antsy.

Shares of the company fell 2.7 percent to $40.24 in early trading on Wall Street.

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