COLUMBUS, OH-Consumers had an appetite for Victoria’s Secret bras andpanties and other intimate garb in the third quarter, but not as much for the Limited Brands’ casual lines of clothes, according to the company’s fiscal 3Q# 2004 results (ended October 30). Limited Brands includes Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Express, Limited Stores, White Barn Candle Co. and Henri Bendel, currently operating 3,835 specialty stores.

Third-quarter earnings per share were $0.16 for the third quarter, compared to $0.25 last year. Operating income was $53.1 million, compared to $42.2 million last year, and net income was $78.3 million, compared to $129.7 million last year. Comparable store sales for the quarter increased 1%, and net sales were $1.891 billion, compared to sales of $1.847 billion last year.

“The increase in operating income for the company was driven by a $22.4 million improvement at the Victoria’s Secret segment, offset by an $8.9 million decline at the apparel segment,” said V. Ann Hailey, EVP and CFO of Limited Brands, at Thursday’s earnings conference. “As expected, Bath & Body Works was basically flat.”

Victoria’s Secret’s third-quarter sales increased by 13% for the quarter over the same period last year, and operating income increased by 26% to $107.2 million. “Bras delivered strong growth, driven especially by the re-launch of the Body by Victoria shaping full coverage–the ‘It’ bra–and the introduction of the Angel’s Uplift bra,” said Mark Weikel, COO of Victoria’s Secret Stores. “Also, panties and sleepwear and beauty products did well in virtually all stores.”

By contrast, the Express brand posted comparable store sales that were down by 12% in the third quarter compared with last year, and operating income declined significantly as well. “This reflects the fact that we are at the very beginning of our attempt to achieve a turnaround,” said Ken Stevens, CEO of Express. “Third-quarter declines in casual more than offset the gains in the wear-to-work category.”

In May, he noted, Express launched a process of reviewing every aspect of its business. “The goal is to insure we focus on the most important activities, and improve existing processes to improve productivity and eliminate costs,” he said. “We are continuing reposition the brand as a regular-price business, using promotions selectively.”

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