L Brands responds to call from investor to spin off Victoria’s Secret
Following L Brands investor Barrington Capital’s suggestion on Tuesday that the Victoria’s Secret parent company separate the struggling lingerie label from the Bath & Body Works brand, the Ohio-based fashion retailer has issued a statement detailing its efforts to improve its performance
“L Brands welcomes open communications with our shareholders and values input that may advance our goal of enhancing shareholder value,” reads the statement.
“L Brands is focused on bringing merchandise to market that aligns with consumer trends around the globe, proactively managing our real estate assets and maintaining a disciplined approach to our cost structure and deployment of capital. The Company, in consultation with its financial advisors, has made significant changes in its business to focus resources on core categories to enhance performance and accelerate growth.”
The statement goes on to list a series of initiatives undertaken by L Brands in recent months to turn its fortunes around, including the closure of its Henri Bendel brand, the sale of its La Senza business and the reduction of its regular dividend.
The company also mentions the appointments of Amy Hauk and John Mehas as the leaders of its Pink and Victoria’s Secret brands, respectively, as well as a range of new product launches.
The list concludes by outlining the company’s efforts to tighten up its management structure and increase its focus on customer engagement and product assortments at its floundering lingerie labels.
Aside from being an obvious attempt to reassure shareholders, it’s difficult to say at this point whether the company’s statement indicates a willingness to act on Barington’s advice, delivered to L Brands chairman and CEO Leslie Wexner in a letter earlier on Tuesday.
Aside from suggesting the separation of consistent underperformer Victoria’s Secret from Bath & Body Works in order to be able to refocus the turnaround of the former and unlock the “true potential” of the latter, Barington’s letter also recommended splitting the roles of L Brands CEO and chairman between two separate individuals.
The communication further highlighted a lack of diversity on the L Brands board as problematic, pointing out that nine out of its 12 directors are men.
The company’s Victoria’s Secret brand has struggled to stay relevant in an evolving lingerie industry, which is increasingly shifting its focus towards body positivity, inclusivity and comfort. The label’s outdated attitude and image were thrown into the spotlight at the end of last year by the outcry caused by CMO Ed Razek’s controversial comments on transgender and plus-size models.
Barington’s letter comes shortly after L Brands reported net income of $540.1 million for 2018, disappointing Wall Street analysts with an EPS outlook in the range of $2.20 to $2.60, and sending its shares tumbling.
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