Shares of L Brands Inc. (BBWI 4.77%) -- the parent company of Victoria's Secret, Bath & Body Works, and multiple other brands -- rose as much as 11% today, after the company put out a March sales report showing how much it is struggling. That still must have been better than Wall Street was expecting.
Sales for the month fell 7% year over year, while comparable-store sales dropped a full 10%. Management said that the later Easter holiday this year (Easter falls on April 16 in 2017, compared to March 27 last year), along with the company's decision in the last year to cut swimwear from its Victoria's Secret line, contributed to the decline in sales. The stock got a lift today, but it's still down about 50% over the last two years.
Like many similar retailers, L Brands has faced a tough last few years, as e-commerce pressure and an increasingly competitive space have made same-store sales and increased earnings a challenge for most of the industry. For full-year 2016, the company actually reported a 3% increase in sales year over year, but warned that first-quarter sales would see a decline. More troubling, however, is that its earnings per share fell nearly 6% for the year compared with 2015. For full-year 2017, the company expects another 16% to 23% drop in EPS from 2016.
L Brands certainly has a lot of assets to work with, including more than 3,000 company-owned specialty stores across North America, the U.K., and China -- including the first full-assortment Victoria's Secret store in China, which opened March 8. The stock also has some interesting points, including its price-to-earnings ratio of less than 12, and its 5.2% dividend yield. Still, the company will need to prove that it can stop the bleeding, and turn earnings back around, before it looks like an interesting play.