L Brands on Wednesday said that John Mehas, who was named replaced by Martin Waters.
Waters has led the company's international division since 2008, according to a company press release. He reports to Stuart Burgdoerfer, who is chief financial officer but is also serving as interim CEO of Victoria's Secret.
Waters has "significant experience in strategic planning, merchandising, planning and allocation, brand management, marketing and supply chain operations," per the release. Under his leadership, L Brands expanded its overseas business to more than 700 stores globally. Before joining L Brands, he was managing director for European health and beauty retailer Boots International.
Mehas hasn't been in the job at Victoria's Secret all that long, and lately the brand seemed to be reviving.
In the recently reported third quarter, for example, the lingerie business wasn't so thoroughly overshadowed by the sibling Bath & Body Works chain. While Victoria's Secret sales fell 14.2%, comps there including e-commerce rose 4%. And the company swung into the black, with gross margin expanding 870 basis points to 44.5% of sales.
For years now, Victoria's Secret, once far and away a global leader in lingerie, has steadily given up sales and market share to a host of brands, whose merchandising and marketing have kept up with the times. Perhaps because it was the source of its success for so long, the brand has remained entrenched in a sexy "glamazon" vibe, despite consumers' shift toward comfort, inclusivity, diversity and empowerment.
"The fact that all these moves were made now is telling: not very happy with results, and not just this last quarter, but the last few years," Lee Peterson, executive vice president of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners, said by email. "Could be some blowback from the latest NYTimes piece as well, but I doubt it, Les doesn't think that way."
The New York Times recently reported that L Brands had launched a second internal inquiry into founder and ex-CEO Les Wexner's relationship with disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
A shakeup at Victoria's Secret may have been inevitable, considering that earlier this year L Brands didn't think it would be running it at all. A deal for Sycamore to take a 55% stake for about $525 million fell through in May after the pandemic disrupted the acquisition's rationale. Wexner also stepped down from his CEO role in mid-May.
"This is a very different company than it was four months ago," BMO Capital Markets Managing Director Simeon Siegel said by phone, regarding Victoria's Secret.
Without a merchandising or marketing overhaul, the brand for years has been resorting to heavy promotions in order to keep a grip on its share. More recently, however, it's scaled back the top line in favor of higher prices, a tactic BMO's Siegel has previously advocated.
In other new appointments at the brand, Laura Miller was named chief human resources officer; Becky Behringer was promoted to executive vice president of North America store sales and operations; and Janie Schaffer was named chief design officer. The team includes mostly company veterans, which Jane Hali, CEO of investment research firm Jane Hali & Associates, sees as a missed opportunity.
"I'm not impressed with any of the appointees," Hali said by email. "To develop Victoria's Secret, it would have been great to see a well known designer name."