Victoria’s Secret needs a guardian angel these days.
The iconic lingerie brand, famous for its supermodel angels, is expected to see same-store sales tumble as much as 20 percent in February, according to its parent company, L Brands.
The news sent jitters through Wall Street and investors beat up the Columbus, Ohio, company, sending its shares down 16.3 percent in late morning trading on Thursday.
L Brands, which also owns Bath & Body Works, on Thursday reported disappointing overall fourth quarter results and provided a grim outlook for this year.
L Brands blamed its poor results on Victoria’s Secret’s swimwear and apparel exit last year — but its core Victoria’s Secret product line is floundering as well.
Industry experts believe the company is out of touch with consumers’ preferences these days, continuing to push an outdated sexy image of women — primarily through its underwire, push-up bras — that no longer resonates with younger shoppers, who are looking for comfort and casual wear.
Same-store sales for the lingerie brand fell 2 percent in the third quarter after rising just 1 percent in the first and second quarters. Meanwhile, it main rival, American Eagle Outfitters Aerie brand, has been posting same-store sales increases in the mid-20 percent range.
Longtime Chief Executive Leslie Wexner has been trying to right the ship by more narrowly focusing on the company’s core brands and decreasing promotions, but so far he has not succeeded in getting away from deeply discounted merchandise, say experts.
“Pressures are being felt beyond swim and apparel” exits, noted Nomura/Instinet analyst Simeon Siegel, in a research note. “It seems fair to question whether management opted to ‘kitchen sink’ the guidance.”
The once mighty brand with its iconic Victoria’s Secret Angels held its first ever fashion show in Paris in November, a spectacle that include performances by Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars.
But some wonder whether the Angels have run their course.
“The Angels are somewhat unrelatable,” said Gabriella Santaniello, founder of A Line Partners, a retail research firm. “They have an image problem now.”
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