Of all of the stores in its arsenal, one would not think that Victoria's Secret would be the symbol for a first quarter of declining sales and margins at Limited Brands
Increased prices at the pump and a slowing housing market have presumably cut into consumers' discretionary income to spend at the mall. For Limited's Q1, net sales did increase by 11% versus its year-ago quarter. However, this positive trend was more than offset by a decrease in total gross margin from 38% to 35% and an increase in general, administrative, and store operating expenses of 15%. The retailer also announced its intentions earlier in the month to sell off a 67% ownership interest in its Express brand to Golden Gate Capital.
Limited was among a few of the nation's large retailers who have not felt the ill effects of curtailed consumer spending during the quarter as same-store sales rose 4%. Gap
The one benefit that has arisen from these weaker-than-expected results is reasonable valuations for value investors. Management at Limited is very much in tune with this occurrence, as it was announced on Wednesday that the company's Board of Directors has authorized a new $500 million share repurchase program. The company recently completed a $200 million share repurchase. Another premier retailer, American Eagle Outfitters
Limited is presently trading at a 25% discount to the 52-week high that it reached amid a general surge in retail sales in November. It might be some time before the stock rebounds to this level. In the meantime, value investors can pad their returns from the company's one hundred and thirtieth consecutive quarterly dividend which gives Limited shares a 2.3% yield.