NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Limited Brands ( LTD), a specialty apparel retailer focused on lingerie, beauty and personal care products.
It competes with retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch ( ANF), American Eagle ( AEO), AnnTaylor ( ANN), Gap ( GPS), and J.Crew Group ( JCG). Some of its popular brands include Victoria's Secret in the lingerie business and Bath & Body Works in the personal care segment. We estimate Victoria's Secret brands is the largest value driver for Limited Brands, contributing more than 52% while Bath & Body Works contributes nearly 34% to our $30.63 Trefis price estimate for Limited Brands' stock. Limited Brands continued its year on year comparable store sales gains through December with a 5% gain beating analyst expectation. For full year 2010, Limited Brands' comparable store sales increased by 8% over 2009. While Victoria's Secret's comparables increased by 12% in 2010, Bath & Body Works showed a 4% increase in comparables during the same period. What makes the December growth special for Limited Brands is the fact that it has come at a time when many other major retailers in the U.S. have suffered. Out of the dozen retailers that reported December sales, about half have missed analysts' expectations for the holiday month's same-store sales. Discount and teen clothing stores in particular reported weak numbers for the month with retailers like Wet Seal ( WTSLA) and American Eagle Outfitters lowering their earnings forecast as high discounting during holidays is likely to drain profits. Wet Seal's and Hot Topic's same-store sales dropped 2.1% and 1.7% in December over the same period last year, contrary to expectations. Even the department stores like Macy's ( M) and Kohl's ( KSS) reported sales below expectations. Despite many retailers falling short on sales expectations, December sales results were rather mixed with a number of retailers topping analysts' expectations. Buckle ( BKE), which makes apparel and accessories for men and women, reported strength in December, with same-store sales up 6.1% over the last year, beating expectations for a 4.5% increase. Saks also managed to exceed analysts' expectations which sent the stock higher. Still, the relative strength versus competitors signals a strong competitive position for Limited Brands, since the company generated strong December results while avoiding the trap of heavy discounts and promotions. The recent sales strength for Limited Brands supports our revenue per square foot (RPSF) growth estimates for Victoria's Secret U.S. stores.