A Stumbling Victoria’s Secret Could Become the ‘Sears of Brassieres’

L Brands Inc., whose shares were already trading at seven-year lows, has disappointed investors yet again.

The owner of retail banners Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works said first-quarter earnings would be at the
lower end of its previous guidance
range and that sales in Victoria’s Secret’s Pink business were negative for a second consecutive quarter. The news sent shares down as much as 10 percent.

Store only comparable sales “are really bad” at Victoria’s Secret, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a note earlier. Aerie, American Eagle Outfitters Inc.’s young women’s lingerie brand, “is comping significantly positive, and it is clear to us that they are taking market share from Pink.”

If the Pink business continues to decline and the strength in Bath & Body Works decelerates, the company’s free cash flow “may wane enough to put the dividend in question,” Konik added. He rates the stock “underperform,” and reduced his price target to $23 per share from $30.

L Brands’ attempts to use promotions to bolster its sales numbers have failed, and have caused the
April merchandise margin rate
to be “down significantly” versus last year, according to remarks made on the company’s pre-recorded conference call.

The lower earnings expectation, together with the weak monthly sales and margin rate led Loop Capital analyst Laura Champine to write in a note to clients that
Victoria’s Secret “is turning into
the Sears of brassieres.”

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