L Brands, once a giant of retail, is planning to sell a majority stake in Victoria’s Secret to a private equity firm. Previously the company owned Abercrombie & Fitch, The Limited, Lane Bryant, Express and others. Now, the only company that’ll be left in its portfolio is Bath & Body Works.
Becky Staring, who’s 35 and lives in Milwaukee, has been shopping at Bath & Body Works since she was 16, when her favorite scent was Warm Vanilla Sugar.
“It smells like a warm sugar cookie,” Staring said. “Which is exactly how I described it to my daughter at the store yesterday.”
Now her favorite is A Thousand Wishes. “I don’t really know what it is, but just the aroma of it is kind of relaxing for me,” she said.
Staring goes to Bath & Body Works every few months. She said when walks into the store, it looks a lot like it did when she was 16, from the colorful displays to the “TRY ME!” stickers on the bottles.
“I mean, the experience overall is pretty fun. To smell all the different candles and the different scents of lotion,” Staring said.
The experience — that thing analysts keep saying retailers need to offer to get people off their couches and into stores.
John Morris, apparel and retail analyst at D.A. Davidson, said Bath & Body Works has been in the experience game for a long time.
“They were one of the first to really allow people openly, on their own, to do self try-out,” Morris said. “People know and understand that, and that’s a reason that makes them more of a destination in the mall.”
The company’s sales are growing in the double digits at a time when many other mall-based retailers are struggling.
Also, while Bath & Body Works’ stores haven’t changed all that much since Staring was 16, the fragrance business lends itself to a different kind of evolution.
“They launch a lot of new scents, and people really love the newness,” said Lorraine Hutchinson, an analyst at BofA Securities.
Now that Bath & Body Works is the last L Brands property, however, it’ll be saddled with the more than $5 billion of debt that’s on the company’s books.
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