There were hints that things weren't going so well at Limited Brands (NYSE:LTD) even before this morning's retailer-rattling restructuring announcement. Assets were being sold instead of spun-off to shareholders. Mallrats were proving fickle. Even the company's all-weather Victoria's Secret concept was exposed -- and not in the way you think, naughty Fool -- this past quarter.

So what's a retailer to do? In Limited's case, it's fighting back. The company is trimming off 10% of its corporate office workforce in a move to ultimately shave $100 million in annual overhead. Limited will also take on debt as it expands its share repurchasing efforts.

The market liked the move, lifting the shares 3% higher at the open this morning. However, now the burden is on Limited to make it work.

The company is in the process of selling a majority stake in its Express chain. It is also exploring ways to cash out of its namesake apparel stores. That will leave it with its Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works workhorses.

That may leave some to wonder why the company is issuing $1.25 billion in new debt. Doubling its stock buyback to $1 billion could easily be bankrolled if the company was close to finding a buyer for its mall staple, Limited Stores. Selling two-thirds of Express will be enough for a pre-tax windfall of $548 million alone.

I would argue that Limited isn't necessarily scaling back. It's just going to use its poker chips to go play at a different table. Despite the "For Sale" signs dangling before its specialty apparel concepts, the company still went out and acquired Canadian lingerie specialist La Senza back in January.

The fact that it sold the Express stake, instead of spinning it off the way it has with its appendages in the past like Tween Brands (NYSE:TWB) and Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF), also indicates that Limited is amassing a war chest. You don't do that if you're thinking small.

I'm not suggesting that Limited is eyeing meatier purchases down the road. However, it is at the very least setting itself up to aggressively expand the properties it will ultimately keep. This penny-pinching may spook income investors, but I wouldn't worry. The retailer wouldn't risk alienating investors by breaking its streak of 130 consecutive quarterly dividends -- not at this point.

So while Limited may appear to be taking a small step back this morning, the move is actually in  pursuit of a larger step forward.

Other headlines, ripped from the mall racks:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz bores easily at the mall. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.