Retail

Victoria's Secret cuts 50 from headquarters staff, head of stores to step down

Key Points
  • April Holt, who has been with L Brands' lingerie division for more than 16 years, most recently overseeing the chain's real estate, is leaving.
  • A reason for her resignation couldn't immediately be determined.
  • There were also other cuts this week at Victoria's Secret's home office.
Pedestrians walk past a Victoria's Secret LLC store, a subsidiary of L Brands Inc., in New York.
Craig Warga | Bloomberg | Getty Images

As L Brands' Victoria's Secret lingerie brand tries to right the ship, facing a sales slump, the company has laid off dozens of people at its home office this week.

In addition, the head of Victoria's Secret's stores and store operations is also stepping down, CNBC has learned.

Victoria's Secret cut about 50 people on Wednesday and Thursday, ranging from senior leaders to junior staffers, at its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters. That represents about 15% of Victoria's Secret's employees at the brand's home office.

Meanwhile — and according to a company spokesperson unrelated to the layoffs — April Holt, who has been with L Brands' lingerie division for more than 16 years, most recently overseeing the chain's real estate, will leave the company imminently. Becky Kritek-Behringer, currently senior vice president of store operations, will assume some of her responsibilities until a successor is named.

A reason for Holt's resignation couldn't immediately be determined.

"We're on the all-important journey to turn around the Victoria's Secret business," an L Brands spokesperson told CNBC in an email. "As we've said, everything is on the table including having the right talent in the right places. Today we announced new leadership positions and organizational changes that help us simplify the business which allows us to be more agile. We believe these efficiencies are crucial to the evolution of our brand."

The cuts and loss of Holt come amid a broader shake-up among management. The lingerie brand has been trying to reinvent itself as sales have slowed. Female consumers have been turned off by its sexy marketing, dimly lit stores and somewhat stale product assortment.

L Brands chief marketing officer Edward Razek resigned earlier this year. Victoria's Secret CEO Jan Singer left suddenly at the end of last year and was replaced by former Tory Burch president John Mehas.

"Ms. Holt's reported decision to step down is, to us, another signal that the company's turnaround strategy is failing to gain traction," Jefferies analyst Randal Konik said in a note to clients. "Against a backdrop of ongoing heavy promo activity, we continue to see risk ahead for L Brands."

"We don't find it overly surprising that key executives may be seeking greener pastures," he added.

Speaking at an investor day in September, Mehas said Victoria's Secret needed to "evolve." The company knows its styles and image haven't been resonating as much as they used to, with younger consumers turning to body-positive start-ups including Adore Me, Aerie and ThirdLove for bras and underwear.

Victoria's Secret just recently started featuring its first plus-size model. It's also ending its annual fashion show, as viewership has fallen off.

L Brands shares have fallen more than 34% this year. The stock closed Thursday down 2%.

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