L Brands Inc. operated a specialty retail business focused on intimates and other apparel, personal care, and beauty categories. Based in Ohio, the company was founded by Leslie "Les" Wexner in 1963. In 1982, L Brands, then known as The Limited Inc., was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
For many years, L Brands grew rapidly, expanding its brand through organic growth and acquisitions. Once listed as one of the best employers in the US and in Canada, L Brands dominated the beauty and apparel industries. However, the company was hit hard in recent years, with Victoria's Secret struggling to keep up with the competition. L Brand's stock was one of the worst performers in 2018. Having sold off its nameplate store The Limited and sibling brand Express in 2007, L Brands' name no longer represented its original business.
Systematically over the years, L Brands sold or closed many of the companies that it acquired. The company sold its La Senza lingerie chain to private equity firm Regent in December 2018. In addition, financial difficulties led L Brands to close its Henri Bendel brand in January 2019.
- L Brands operated as a global specialty retail holding company that specialized in women's apparel and beauty products.
- L Brand's subsidiaries included brands like Victoria's Secret, PINK, and Bath & Body Works. Former brands include The Limited, Express, La Senza, and Henri Bendel.
- After more than 100 years in business, Henri Bendl closed permanently in 2019.
- L Brands also invested in other popular names like Abercrombie & Fitch and White Barn Candle.
- In the summer of 2021, L Brands spun off Victoria's Secret and other holdings, renaming itself Bath & Body Works.
- Type of business: Intimate specialty retailer
- Acquisition price: $1 million
- Date it was purchased: January 1, 1982
- Most recent yearly net sales: $5.4 billion (2021)
L Brands purchased Victoria's Secret for $1 million in 1982. Its assets included six stores and one catalog. L Brands expanded this brand into one of the world's most well-known global lingerie brands.
L Brands took Victoria's Secret global in 2012 when it opened its first stores in the United Kingdom. Furthering their global expansion, in 2017, Victoria's Secret opened its first full-assortment store in Shanghai, China.
Victoria’s Secret & Co. (VSCO) includes Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, PINK, and Victoria’s Secret Beauty.
As of Jan. 2022, Victoria's Secret operates more than 1,400 stores globally and employs more than 25,000 people. Like other retailers, Victoria’s Secret has moved its focus to e-commerce at VictoriasSecret.com, making its products available to customers located nearly anywhere in the world.
In 2020, the company earned $5.4 billion in revenues. Victoria's Secret holds the top position for lingerie market share in the United States with approximately 20% market share.
In addition to expanding its geographic reach, L Brands increased the products beyond intimates, as Victoria's Secret sells fragrances and body care and has an athletic line. Included under Victoria’s Secret brand is PINK, a line that offers clothing, sleepwear, and lingerie geared toward college-aged consumers.
PINK merchandise is available not only within Victoria's Secret retail stores and website but also in the brand's own freestanding stores and website, VSPink.com. Loyal customers can join PINK Nation, a free, members-only online community for all things PINK.
A smaller concept, the 1,000 square-foot Victoria's Secret Beauty and Accessories stores (VSBA), focuses on fragrances, body care, and accessories, and exists in airports and malls.
In July 2021, L Brands separated from Victoria's Secret, which now operates as Victoria's Secret & CO (VSCO).
- Type of business: Plus-size women's retail clothing store
- Acquisition price: $105 million
- Date it was purchased: April 29, 1982
- Most recent yearly revenue: $515.09 million (2020)
Lane Bryant—private retailer of clothing for plus-size women—was established in 1904 by Lithuanian immigrant Lena Bryant. Lena opened her first Lane Bryant store on Fifth Ave in New York, focusing on lingerie for brides and maternity wear. After incorporating in 1914, the company quickly expanded its offerings to consumers and operations to Chicago, Detroit, and Brooklyn.
In 1982, Lane Bryant was acquired by Ohio-based L Brands for $105 million. The acquisition positioned the company to expand to other locations in the US and market to a broader consumer base. Under L Brands umbrella, Lane Bryant enjoyed increased sales and operating profits.
In 2001, L Brands sold Lane Bryant to Charming Shoppes, Inc. for $335 million. Charming Shoppes continued to expand Lane Bryant's operations, as well as moved the retailer into different segments of the clothing market.
Since its acquisition from L Brands, Lane Bryant has been acquired by other outfits. Today, its 700 stores and e-commerce platform rests in the hands of Sycamore Partners.
Bath & Body Works
- Type of business: Intimate specialty retailer
- Acquisition price: $1 million
- Date it was purchased: 1982
- Most recent yearly revenue: $6.4 billion (2020)
Bath & Body Works offers personal care, soaps, sanitizers, and home fragrance products. As of Jan. 2022, there were more than 2,000 Bath & Body Works stores worldwide.
The brand is the top brand for hand sanitizers, hand soap, and body moisturizers as well as the number one specialty home fragrance retailer in America. With a strong store and online presence, the brand generated $6.4 billion in 2020.
In 2020, Julie B. Rosen became the brand's president and Andrew Meslow was named CEO. Sarah Nash was appointed Chair of the Board. To improve its social image and increase revenues, Bath & Body Works Board diversified its Board of Directors with mostly independent members, with more than half being women.
In 2021, Les Wexler officially left the board, and L Brands became Bath & Body Works, Inc.
- Type of business: Lingerie and intimate apparel retailer
- Acquisition price: $700 million
- Date it was purchased: 2007
- Most recent yearly revenue: $28.1 million (2020)
La Senza is a Canadian-based lingerie retailer with products that lie between what's offered by Victoria's Secret and Fredericks of Hollywood. It was established in 1990 by Irving Teitelbaum and Stephen Gross, cofounders of another popular brand Suzy Shier.
La Senza was one of L Brands' acquisitions, but L Brands announced in December 2018 that it had made a deal for private equity firm Regent to buy 100% of La Senza’s assets and agree to assume its liability. L Brands estimated that La Senza would end 2018 with sales of about $250 million and an operating loss of about $40 million.
La Senza continues to operate more than 340 stores globally and online.
- Type of business: Luxury clothing, handbag, and accessories retailer
- Acquisition price: undisclosed (estimated to be approximately $10 million)
- Date it was purchased: 1985
- Most recent yearly revenue: $85 million (2018)
Established in 1895, Henri Bendel was an upscale retailer of handbags, accessories, and gifts, including a signature home fragrance collection. Based in New York City, Bendel was the first luxury retailer with an upper Fifth Avenue address.
Henri Bendel celebrated 123 years in business before closing permanently in 2019.
In September 2018, L Brands announced that it would close Henri Bendel in January 2019, at the end of the 2018 holiday shopping period. The company shut down its website and closed all 23 of its stores, including its iconic Fifth Avenue location in New York City.
Although not part of L Brands, the company had secured distribution rights for C.O. Bigelow and The White Barn Candle Company. L Brands increased its exposure through the acquisition of companies but has also sold off many companies that acquired over its history.
Some of the more well-known stores once under the L Brands nameplate but now owned (at least in the majority) by other companies include:
- Lane Bryant, sold to Charming Shoppes in 2002
- Express, sold 75% ownership in 2007
- Flagship brand, The Limited, which it sold 75% ownership of to Sun Capital Partners in 2007 and the remaining 25% in 2010
The Bottom Line
L Brands once dominated the retail industry, with most of its brands filling shopping malls and retail outlets. Under its umbrella once stood The Limited, Express, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Victoria's Secret.
Today, it operates under a different name—Bath & Body Works, Inc.—with only one major brand in its portfolio. However, Bath & Body Works is a powerhouse that can continue to drive results and further the success of the brand.
L Brands FAQs
What Companies Are in L Brands?
As of August 2021, L Brands operates solely as Bath & Body Works, Inc. Previously, L Brands included popular retailers, including The Limited, Victoria's Secret, PINK, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel, Lane Bryant, Lerner Stores, and Abercrombie & Fitch.
Who Founded L Brands?
With a $5,000 loan from his aunt, Leslie "Lex" Wexner began L Brands under the name The Limited.
Who Is the CEO of L Brands?
The CEO of Bath & Body Works, Inc., formerly known as L Brands, is Andrew Meslow. Prior to assuming this role in February 2020, Andrew Meslow worked as the company's chief operating officer (COO).
How Many L Brands Stores Are There in the US?
There are more than 2,000 Bath & Body Works (formerly L Brands), Inc. stores worldwide, with 1750 locations in the US and 300 in other countries.