Bath & Body Works has survived while many other mall stores have closed


Growth in sales for the fragrance and personal-care brand may be attributed to several factors, including the regular introduction of new products, which keeps customers coming back to stores, and an effective promotional strategy, which motivates customers to increase the average order value.

Parent company L Brands reported that comparable sales at bath and body works black Friday were up 13% year over year on its first quarter earnings call yesterday. Overall sales were unchanged. L Brands’ financial vice president, Stuart Burgdoerfer, has speculated that the company’s success can be attributed to its ability to offer “unique merchandise with emotional content.” In comparison to the same period a year ago, the percentage of the brand’s sales that came via online channels increased to 18%.

While other mall staples like JC Penney, Sears, and even kid- and women-focused clothing brands like Gymboree and Charlotte Russe have struggled, Bath & Body Works has thrived. When mall traffic drops, stores that rely too much on flash sales to keep their doors open risk having too much inventory on hand and driving away customers who prefer a more streamlined shopping experience.

“[Their site] is highly graphically appealing,” said one critic, paraphrasing the original. Perfume and personal care products are difficult to sell online, according to Tiffany Hogan, a retail researcher at Kantar Consulting.

Candles, and not colognes and shower gels, take center stage on the company’s primary website. Additionally, it uses sales as an opportunity to sell more to existing clients by highlighting buy-one-get-one bargains rather than, say, 50% off sales. According to GlobalData Retail’s Neil Saunders, “which boosts margins as customers wind up buying more,” Bath & Body Works is doing a terrific job using discounts that emphasize pushing up volume sales.

One of the many ways in which Bath & Body Works stands apart from the competition is by highlighting seasonal displays and promotions that focus on candles and fragrances that are appropriate for the time of year. Bath & Body Works argues that emphasizing seasonality has helped lure visitors back to its website and physical locations to see what’s new, despite the fact that doing so puts the retailer in danger of losing customers who are looking for year-round availability of its goods. While the company had first tried to rely less on a seasonal rhythm in 2017, CEO Nick Coe said during the first quarter earnings call of 2018 that the company had to shift course after learning that this was not what customers desired.


In addition to the insides, Bath & Body Works has upgraded the exteriors of its stores. In 2016, Bath & Body Works began its White Barn makeover initiative, giving the impression that its locations were now two separate stores, one selling candles under the White Barn name and the other selling lotions and perfumes under the Bath & Body Works brand. The company saw initial success with this strategy for its Pink brand line of casual apparel when Victoria’s Secret’s emphasis on exclusivity began to wane in popularity. Customers are tricked into thinking the brands are located in two distinct stores, increasing the likelihood that they will shop at both locations.

Coe claims that L Brands will revamp nearly 600 locations since the White Barn program’s beginning, with over 200 more stores slated for renovation this year.

Barring any detrimental effects from its parent company’s problems, Bath & Body Works is positioned for future success. Morning Consult found that Bath & Body Works is still a favorite among millennials and Gen Z. Research undertaken by the firm and released earlier this week found that Bath & Body Works is the fourth most chosen brand among Gen Z women.

They have “this tremendous word of mouth” with the brand, says the VP of content at Morning Consult. Bath & Body Works values its customers and works hard to keep in touch with them after they’ve made a purchase.

If you’re interested in retail, you should definitely sign up for the Digiday Retail Briefing newsletter. This newsletter, sent to your mailbox three times weekly, will analyze the most recent events in the retail and online commerce industries through the lenses of breaking news, expert analysis, and data.

Read more: