Limited Brands Earnings Call Insights: Lingerie, Profitability, and Franchise Sales

On Thursday, Limited Brands, Inc. (NYSE:LTD) reported its third quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call. Take a look.

Lingerie and Profitability

Oliver Chen – Citigroup: Regarding the execution in bra and panties, and the opportunity there. Could you speak to what’s changing and what’s your liking in terms of features for holiday? As a follow-up from a bigger picture perspective, could you share with us your overviews of how you’re making efforts to balance your comp store sales versus profitability, and just remind us what comp do you leverage occupancy?

Amie Preston – IR: For the first part, the bra and panty question, obviously we’ll go to Sharen.

Sharen Jester Turney – CEO and President, Victoria’s Secret: First of all, I think in the bra and panty business that I’m excited about for holiday is that we are very well balanced across all of our price points in terms of good, better, best. The fashion mix this year is really outstanding. When we think about going into – we have an extra (floor set) this year because the elongated timeframe between Thanksgiving and the end of the January, which we think we’ll also look to business. We have a great mix for the younger customer from the PINK bra collection and doing very well in our lighter bras, all the way up to our higher end collection with Very Sexy, Dream Angels is extremely strong for us right now as well as our Body by Victoria. So good balance in price points, good balance in fashion, good balance in newness and great new flow as we reap this year.

Amie Preston – IR: Great thanks Sharen and we’ll go to Stuart for the second question, Oliver.

Stuart Burgdoerfer – EVP and CFO: Oliver in terms of balancing comps and profit as you’ve heard us talk about before. The most important thing in driving our pathway to 20% operating income rate is sales growth and we also understand the (adage) if you don’t take rate on to the bank meaning top line growth is very important. With that said we believe that there is significant opportunity to improve the profit rate of the business which we’ve talked about. So the net answer to your question, is the balance and if one ultimately has to choose probably a little more weight on dollars then on rate. In terms of the leverage point sales require two hold B&O rate or leverage B&O it’s between 3% and 4%, and as we invest more in stores as we’ve outlined as we are doing this year and we’ll do even more next year. That leverage point will go up a little bit, but we believe that those investments as we outlined at the investor update meeting are excellent investments for the company, but it will put a little more pressure on the B&O rate.

Franchise Sales

Kimberly Greenberger – Morgan Stanley: Stuart, I am wondering if you can talk about that 50 basis point merchandise margin headwind on the increased sales to your international franchise partners, if you could just help us understand either the year-to-date sales trend or how that, how your gross margin, and your merchandise margin mix shift is changing. And if you have a forecast for the full year 2012 hit to merchandise margin that would helpful as well.

Stuart Burgdoerfer – EVP and CFO: Kimberly, the effect is becoming more meaningful to the Company as we grow the portion of our business that relates to licensed and franchise businesses, so that’s what gives rise to it obviously. As we look out at least for the next quarter, the effect will be a little bit less than it was in the third quarter, some of that as you would appreciate is timing and is also a function of the relative significance of the activity in relation to sales in the quarter. So, often times the effect the sourcing related margin effects is greatest in the third quarter it’s product as well and an advance of sales. We would expect that the effect in Q4 will be probably about 20 basis points, having counted for the year, but it will be 20, 30, 40 basis points as we move forward and again there’ll be some variation by quarter, as product flows and in relation to the sales for the quarter. So hopefully that addresses your question.

Kimberly Greenberger – Morgan Stanley: Just to be clear, those are all incremental gross profit dollars associated with the sales to those third parties it just changes your rate every quarter, right?

Stuart Burgdoerfer – EVP and CFO: That’s correct.