L Brands (LB) said its comparable sales for November increased 9%. While one analyst believes the company's Bath & Body Works unit is "saving Christmas," another analyst pointed out that Victoria's Secret is "still broken" and that the PINK brand has "deeper issues than appreciated by the Street."
NOVEMBER RESULTS: L Brands said on Thursday that its comparable sales for the four weeks ended December 1 were up 9% vs. last year on net sales of $1.596B. In a conference call discussing the month, the company said comp sales for Victoria's Secret were up 2%, driven by growth in lingerie and beauty and partially offset by a decline in PINK. The company said early holiday performance has been "in line" with expectations and noted a "record" Cyber Monday. November comps were up 18% at Bath & Body Works, exceeding internal expectations, with the company saying it achieved "record" volumes on key days.
WHAT'S NOTABLE: Though the company's third quarter earnings per share and revenue were slightly ahead of analyst expectations, when reported in November, the company announced plans to halve its annual dividend to $1.20 per share from $2.40. In addition, management decided to close its Henri Bendel high-end cosmetic brand while pursuing "strategic alternatives" for its small La Senza subsidiary. Shares of L Brands are down over 40% this year primarily due to slowing sales at Victoria's Secret, particularly of bras, which make up 35% of L Brands' sales, The Wall Street Journal said last month. The issue at Victoria's Secret, whose CEO Jan Singer is departing, is that customers are seeking cheaper undergarments that prioritize comfort and while the brand has tried to adapt by ending its catalog, doubling down on sports bras and releasing a collection of "bralettes," it was a late adopter of the trend, according to the report.
BATH & BODY WORKS 'SAVING CHRISTMAS': Baird analyst Mark Altschwager told investors in research a note titled "Bath & Body Works Is Saving Christmas" that he believes strength at the L Brands unit can "support the value case for shares" as a new Victoria's Secret turnaround plan builds in fiscal 2019. The analyst pointed out that Victoria's Secret's "disappointing" results with merchandise margins below expectations is "not a huge surprise" in the context of recent management changes.
VICTORIA'S SECRET 'STILL BROKEN," PINK'S ISSUES 'DEEPER': Meanwhile, Jefferies analyst Randal Konik told investors in a research note of his own that despite "another strong report" for the Bath & Body brand, he believes the brand will likely decelerate into 2019. He also views Victoria's Secret as "still broken" and noted that PINK comps were down despite heavy promotions, which he sees suggesting that the brand "has deeper issues than appreciated by the Street." Additionally, Loop Capital analyst Laura Champine said she believes consensus estimates for 2019 will move lower as the turnaround for the lingerie brands is again pushed out.
PRICE ACTION: Shares of L Brands are up just over 3% in morning trading to $34.02.
Keywords: Bath & Body Works, Bath & Body, Victoria's Secret, PINK, Henri Bendel, La Senza, Cyber Monday, turnaround