Why L Brands Inc Stock Dropped 31% in 2016

By Jeremy Bowman Markets Fool.com

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Image source: The Motley Fool.

What happened

Shares of Victoria's Secret parentL Brands, Inc. (NYSE: LB) weren't looking so attractive last year, slipping 31% according to data from S&P Global Market Intelligence.Like many mass-market retailers, L Brands struggled as its quarterly sales results consistently missed the mark.

LB data by YCharts.

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So what

As the chart above shows, last year's drop owes primarily to disappointing results in the company's first two earnings reports of the year. The stock dropped 15% over the three days following its fourth-quarter sales report last February as it posted a surprised decline in January comps. Its overall performance was strong as comparable store sales increased 6% in the quarter, however, comps fell 2% in January, which the company blamed on a shift in timing of its semi-annual sale, which moved to December. Without it, comps would have increased 1% in the first month of year. L Brands, which also owns Bath & Body Works, La Senza, PINK and Henri Bendel, topped its earnings guidance, but the market punished it nonetheless as its momentum slowed.

Those fears appeared to be justified. The company again disappointed the market in May when its April comparable-sales report fell short. It said comparable sales increased just 1%, well below the analyst consensus at 4.8%.

Though the company beat earnings estimates in each of its last four quarters, the stock never recovered from this early shortfalls.

Now what

We're barely into the new year, but L Brands' losing ways have continued. The stock is down more than 6% as it slid after reporting holiday-season sales as comparable sales fell 1% during the five weeks ended Dec. 31, and the company expects earnings per share to come in at the lower end of its previously stated guidance range of $1.85-$2.00.

The news tracks with downbeat reports from department stores and other mall-based chains, but despite those headwinds, I'd expect 2017 to be kinder to L Brands stock. The company's valuation has compressed from a year ago, and it still has a strong brand and a solid e-commerce business, unlike many of its brick-and-mortar competitors. Shares could easily bounce back with a little momentum.

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Jeremy Bowman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.