L Brands (formerly Limited Brands) is as much of a shopping-mall mainstay as food courts and teenagers. The company operates about 2,875 specialty stores throughout North America primarily under the Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works (BBW), and La Senza (in Canada) banners, as well as corresponding websites and catalogs. Originally focused on apparel, L Brands sold its ailing Limited Stores and Express chains -- leaving the company free to focus on two core businesses: Victoria's Secret and BBW. L Brands also owns apparel importer MAST Industries, accessories boutique operator Henri Bendel, apothecary C.O. Bigelow, and The White Barn Candle Co. Founded in 1963, the company changed its name to L Brands in 2013.
Outside the US, L Brands has about 745 retail stores in Canada and now the UK. International sales totaled $1.06 billion in fiscal 2013 (ended January), about 10% of L Brands' total. L Brands has a partnership with M.H. Alshaya (a popular franchise partner for many American retailers, including American Eagle Outfitters and Pottery Barn) to operate stores in the Middle East.
MAST Industries (dba Mast Global Fashions) is the company's production, sourcing and logistics arm. Mast is one of the world's largest contract manufacturers, importers, and distributors of apparel. Mast has manufacturing operations and joint ventures in more than a dozen countries including China, Israel, Mexico, and Sri Lanka.
L Brands saw its total net sales increase 1% in fiscal 2013 (ended January) versus the prior year, while net income declined by 11% over the same period. While it was the third consecutive year of sales growth for the company, the rate of growth slowed considerably. Still, L Brands is closing in of its pre-recession high of $10.6 billion in sales reached in fiscal 2007. The increase in sales in fiscal 2013 was driven by a comparable stores sales increase of 6%, partially offset by sales lost by the divestiture of the company's third-party apparel sourcing business in late 2011.
The company's Victoria's Secret Stores business posted a 9% increase in sales in fiscal 2013 versus the prior year, while sales at Bath & Body Works Stores increased 8%. BBW Direct's sales jumped 18% versus a 2% gain in sales at Victoria's Secret Direct. Overall, the Victoria's Secret business posted nearly $6.6 billion in sales in 2012.
Wexner's goal is for Victoria's Secret to blossom into a $10-billion brand, but the global financial crisis, decline in consumer confidence, and poor performance of the La Senza business in Canada have conspired to delay his growth strategy for the bra-and-panty business. The strategy at Victoria's Secret is to capture the teen and college-age female customer with its youth-oriented PINK brand (launched 2004), with the hope that as she matures she will shop for sexier styles, such as Angels and Very Sexy, sold in Victoria's Secret stores. PINK is sold in freestanding stores as well as Victoria's Secret shops. While the retailer doesn't break out PINK sales, the brand is meeting stiff competition from American Eagle's Aerie brand and Gilly Hicks by Abercrombie & Fitch. Both target the youth market. L Brands has been closing La Senza stores and repositioning the brand. It has moved La Senza's headquarters from Canada to Ohio and stopped reporting the chain's financial results along with its Victoria's Secret business, which it did prior to fiscal 2012. In addition to La Senza's 150-plus shops (down from more than 300) in Canada, an additional 330 La Senza stores are operated in some 30 countries through franchisees.
L Brands entered the UK market in 2012 with the opening of a pair of Victoria's Secret stores in London. Two additional London stores are slated to open in 2013.
Wexner, who owns about 17.5% of the company's shares, is L Brands' largest shareholder.