L Brands (LB 28.62, +1.18, +4.32%) is up slightly on news it will close some
stores in order to enhance shareholder value. The company has been struggling
in 2018, and that has been reflected in its stock price, which has fallen from
$63 in late December 2017 to close yesterday at $27.44.
While you may not be familiar with the corporate parent L Brands, its retail stores and brands are well-known names. LB owns Victoria's Secret, PINK, Bath & Body Works, La Senza, and Henri Bendel. It operates 3,084 company-owned specialty stores in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Greater China. An additional 800+ franchised locations worldwide also make those brands available to consumers.
The company has evolved from an apparel-based retailer to a segment leader focused on women's intimate wear and other apparel, personal care, beauty, and home fragrance products. Its flagship Victoria's Secret, including PINK, the iconic women's intimate brand featuring celebrated supermodels and a world-famous fashion show, is a specialty retailer of women's intimate and other apparel with fashion-inspired collections and prestige fragrances. Its products are sold online and at more than 1,200 Victoria's Secret and PINK stores.
Bath & Body Works, which sells products under the Bath & Body Works, White Barn, C.O. Bigelow, and other brand names, is one of the leading specialty retailers of body care, home fragrance products, soaps, and sanitizers. La Senza is a retailer of women's intimate apparel with an especially strong presence in Canada. Henri Bendel sells handbags, jewelry, and other accessory products.
Turning to today's news, LB says it will close all 23 of its Henri Bendel stores and the Henri Bendel website in January 2019, basically after the holiday season. The stores include the company's Fifth Avenue flagship store as well as smaller-format stores in 11 states. All stores and the website will remain in operation through January 2019 with new merchandise continuing to arrive through the holiday season.
The company has decided to stop operating Bendel to improve company profitability and focus on its larger brands that have greater growth potential. LB estimates that Henri Bendel 2018 revenue and operating loss, excluding closing costs, will be approximately $85 mln and $45 mln, respectively.
Just last month, the company lowered its full year EPS guidance to $2.45-2.70 from $2.70-3.00, principally driven by a deceleration in PINK. And in its most recent earnings report, LB said its strong performance at Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret Beauty offset weak results at PINK and Victoria's Secret Lingerie. LB says it's not satisfied with this result and is focused on improving performance at Victoria's Secret.
Perhaps a catalyst will be a change at the top. LB recently announced that Denise Landman, CEO of Victoria's Secret PINK, has made the decision to retire at the end of this year. This is pretty big news as Landman has been part of the PINK brand since its inception and has been with L Brands for nearly 20 years.
Amy Hauk, currently President for Merchandising and Product Development of Bath & Body Works, will replace Landman as CEO of Victoria's Secret PINK. Hauk joined Bath & Body Works in 2008 as Senior VP, General Merchandise Manager. Prior to that, she held senior merchant leadership positions at The Children's Place, The Disney Store, Gap, and Macy's. LB says Ms. Hauk is a master merchant with deep knowledge and capabilities. LB feels she is well-equipped to lead the PINK team as she has a track record of accurately identifying what's next in the market. Since joining Bath & Body Works 10 years ago, she has built a solid, talented merchant team.
The decision to close the Henri Bendel segment seems like the right one. It will allow LB to focus more on its other brands, which quite frankly, need some attention. Hiring a new CEO at its Victoria's Secret PINK segment seems like a good idea as well as sales have started to stagnate. Hopefully a new perspective there will re-ignite that brand and get the stock moving higher again.
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