(Filed Under Financial and General Interest News). Strong results at La Senza stores led the way to sales increases for January, as well as for the fourth quarter, for Victoria’s Secret parent Limited Brands, Inc. In a sales and earnings guidance report today, the firm disclosed that company-wide “comparable store sales for the five weeks ended February 2, 2013 increased 9% compared to the five weeks ended February 4, 2012.” Among the various division, same stores sales rose 8% at Victoria’s Secret, 10% at Bath and Body Works and 15% at La Senza.
In addition, Limited “reported net sales of $986.4 million for the five-week period ended February 2, 2013 compared to sales of $774.5 million for the four-week period ended Jan. 28, 2012. The fifth week in January 2013 represented approximately $125 million in sales.” Looking at fourth quarter results, the company noted that comparable store sales for the 14 weeks “ended February 2, 2013 increased 5% compared to the 14 weeks ended February 4, 2012. Net sales were $3.856 billion for the 14 week fourth quarter ended February 2, 2013 compared to $3.515 billion for the 13 weeks ended January 28, 2012.
And for the year, there was a similar increase as well, with “a comparable stores sales increase of 6% for the 53 week year ended February 2, 2013, compared to the 53 weeks ended February 4, 2012. Net sales were $10.459 billion for the 53 week year ended February 2, 2013 compared to $10.364 billion for the 52 weeks ended January 28, 2012. Fourth quarter 2011 and 2011 full year sales included $13.1 million and $702.4 million attributable to the third party apparel sourcing business [the Mast Global Fashions transaction], which was sold in November 2011.”
Limited added that it “is comfortable with the current street consensus estimate for 2012 fourth quarter adjusted earnings per share of $1.73.”
In a separate statement earlier this week, Limited announced “a 20% increase in its regular annual dividend to $1.20 per share, from $1.00 per share previously.” In addition, it also announced “the declaration of its regular quarterly dividend of $0.30 per share payable on March 8, 2013, to shareholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 22, 2013. This is the company’s 153rd consecutive quarterly dividend.”
At Victoria’s Secret stores, sales were even better in January than for the company overall. (Limited operates 2,619 specialty stores in the United States and its brands are sold in more than 700 company-operated and franchised additional locations world-wide; brands include Bath Body Works, La Senza and Henri Bendel).
In conference call remarks this morning that accompanied the January report, Amie Preston, chief investor relations officer, said “Victoria’s Secret stores January comparable store sales increase 8% on top of 17% last year, driven by strength in both clearance and full priced selling during the semi-annual sale period.”
She noted that “the merchandise margin rate decreased versus last year driven by exits of certain beauty product lines during the semi-annual sale. Merchandise margin dollars were up during the month. Fourth quarter sales at Victoria’s Secret stores were $1.713 billion and comps increased 3%
During the conference call, Preston said of the Victoria’s Secret stores, “January began with our semi-annual sale mid-month and we transitioned our focus to our Body by Victoria collection, our Pink bralettes, and our Heartbreaker fragrance.” She said going forward, “The first two weeks of February will focus on Valentine’s Day. Post holiday, we will shift our focus to our Dream Angels collection and our spring break essential in Pink.”
Things were somewhat different at Victoria’s Secret Direct where “January sales, on a five week to five week basis, were down 5% to last year, as strength in sleepwear and Pink was offset by weakness in panties and apparel,” said Preston. “The January merchandise margin rate was up significantly to last year, driven by better pricing and inventory position in semi-annual sale clearance. Four quarter sales at Victoria’s Secret Direct were $534 million.”
Finally, Preston reported that “at La Senza, January comps were up 15%. The merchandise margin rate was down significantly to last year, driven by increase promotional activity. Four quarter sales at La Senza were $102.4 million, and comps were flat.”
Overall, company-wide, Preston said it is expected that “comps in February [will] be up low single digits. We continue to manage the business conservatively, particularly in light of volatile mall traffic.”
Full fourth quarter results will be released on February 27th.
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