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We can argue about whether a short holiday sales season has an impact on overall sales -- analysts have said that it's going to cost retailers $1.5 billion in sales -- but there's no denying that it affects year-to-year comparisons of monthly sales. Pushing Thanksgiving to the end of the month means that the shopping season only has a few days to hook its greedy little claws into November, pushing sales down compared to last year.
The effect doesn't spill over into the holiday weekend, but companies like L Brands (NYSE: LB ) are feeling the November pinch. The company reported a fall in comparable-store sales for November, owing in part to the effect of the late holiday.
Two big brands fail to impress
There was no surprise in the overall fall at L Brands. November sales were expected to be down versus last year. What's frustrating for investors is that a few small things seemed to fall along with the broader sales decline.
Bath & Body Works failed to meet the company's internal expectations, with comparable sales falling throughout the month and on Black Friday. The brand has languished this year, posting a mere 1% comparable-sales increase year to date. Competitors like L'Oreal's (NASDAQOTH: LRLCY ) Body Shop have also suffered, with that brand seeing just a 0.4% increase in comparable sales year to date. Both brands have suffered from the general consumer apathy toward retailers in the U.S.
At Victoria's Secret, the problem is margins. November was a month of discounts, even without the intrusion of Black Friday sales. The company is clearing out Pink-branded merchandise, and gearing up for its annual fashion show, which airs next week on CBS. L Brand said that it was happy with its holiday weekend sales, but didn't give specific guidance on growth from last year.
L Brands' end-of-year plan
The fashion show sets L Brands for a strong holiday season. Even though November was a bit weak -- even accounting for the late Thanksgiving -- L Brands is still running strong. The fall in comparable sales was the first overall monthly decline since late 2009. For the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, Victoria's Secret is focusing on new bra lines, including its sports bra, to compete with companies like Under Armour, which currently dominate the space.
Look for a stronger December from L Brands, but keep an eye on Bath & Body Works, as the brand could quickly slide into a quagmire. Also, maybe just spend time with your friends and family instead of watching the fashion show. (Seriously, how did we end up here?)
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