NEW YORK — Retailers of all stripes – from home-goods merchant Pier One Imports to discounter Family Dollar Stores Inc. and luxury lingerie seller L Brands – are providing hard evidence that the discount war that marked the holiday season will take a toll on profit.

L Brands, which owns the Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works brands, and Family Dollar on Thursday cut profit forecasts after reporting disappointing December sales as promotions that failed to lure shoppers hurt profit margins. Pier One cut its fourth-quarter forecast after December sales trailed its expectations.

The early results are showing that the discounts – as steep as 75 percent off at luxury department-store chain Neiman Marcus Group – didn’t generate sufficient traffic or spur enough purchases of full-priced merchandise to make up for the lost revenue. The reports also pressured retail shares, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Retailing Index falling 0.7 percent, compared with a 0.2 percent drop for the broader S&P 500.

“This was the most promotional holiday season in five years, it’s just not enticing the consumer,” Anna Andreeva, a New York-based analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc., said in a phone interview. “There’s certainly no newness. The consumer’s just postponing purchasing altogether.”

L Brands said Thursday that it reduced its forecast because merchandise margins were lower than expected amid promotions. Fourth-quarter profit will be about $1.60 a share, down from a previous forecast of at least $1.67 a share. Analysts projected $1.79, on average. Sales at stores open at least a year at the retailer’s Victoria’s Secret brand rose 3 percent in December, trailing analysts’ 4.4 percent average of estimates compiled by Retail Metrics Inc.

Same-store sales at Family Dollar decreased about 3 percent in December, “driven primarily by a decline in customer transactions,” according to a statement Thursday.


Family Dollar, based in Matthews, N.C., said full-year earnings will be as much as $3.55 a share, reduced from a maximum of $4.15. The average of analysts’ estimates was $3.98 a share. Comparable sales in the last quarter fell 2.8 percent, more than the low single-digit range that it previously expected. Analysts had projected a drop of 1.9 percent.

Pier One, based in Fort Worth, Texas, said profit per share in the quarter through February would be 47 cents to 52 cents, down from a previous forecast for profit of at least 60 cents a share. Analysts estimated 61 cents, on average.

Family Dollar fell 7 percent to $61.64 at 10:50 a.m. in New York. L Brands, based in Columbus, Ohio, slipped 4.8 percent to $57.32. Pier 1 slumped 13 percent to $20.36.

Retailers offering such large promotions risk training their customers to shop only when they see a big discount, said Paula Rosenblum, a Miami-based managing partner at Retail Systems Research.

“The challenge for retailers now is they’ve created a trend and now they have to find a way out of it,” Rosenblum said in a phone interview. “That’s going to be a big conversation in boardrooms soon – can we scale them back.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.