CEO Says Victoria's Secret Brand Has Gone Too Far

by , Feb 29, 2008, 5:00 AM
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It's no secret that Victoria's Secret is struggling. The division of Limited Brands, like so many other retailers, has been wrestling with declining foot traffic at malls, and an economy that isn't exactly sending women screaming for new dainties. This week, it announced that same-store sales in the fourth quarter fell an extremely unflattering 8%.

But for once, a retailer isn't blaming all its problems on high gas prices and a scary economy: During a conference call with investors, CEO Sharen Turney conceded that the brand has strayed too far from its roots, getting too young and too sexy, with a product assortment that just isn't tempting shoppers the way it used to.

"We will return to our heritage, increasing the level of sophistication in our product offerings," she says. "We'll reinvent sleepwear, and return the brand to the ultra-feminine, and meet her needs and expectations." Part of the problem has been VS' success with younger buyers, particularly in its Pink brand. "Pink did well, and then all the brands got younger," she says.

Today, Turney says, Victoria's Secret is focusing on an aspirational buyer who is 26--a far cry from the target Pink buyer, a girl so young the retailer uses stuffed animals in its promotions.

Bra launches--like the new higher-end BioFit Bra, available in stores next week--"will be fewer but more powerful," she says, and stores will emphasize a "good, better, best" pricing strategy, with stronger options in each category.

Limited Brands has other issues, too. Same-store sales dropped 8% at its Bath & Body Works division, which it says resulted from too long a period of holiday promotion, lack of new and appealing products and gift selections that left shoppers cold.

For the quarter, Limited Brands says sales fell to $3.28 billion, from $4.02 billion in the same period last year, with an overall decline in comparable-store sales of 8%. And for the year, sales slipped to $10.13 billion, from $10.67 billion in the prior year, with a decline in comparable stores sales of 2%.

While it says it is making changes to improve results, Limited Brands also says things may get worse before they get better: While it first predicted February sales would fall in the mid- to high single-digits, it now says they are more likely to come in the "negative low double-digit range."

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