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No Love for La Senza: L Brands Mulls Options for Lackluster Lingerie Firm

Is this the end of the road for La Senza?

L Brands said the Canadian lingerie company it acquired in 2006 for $710 million in Canadian currency could be on its last legs with the Columbus, Ohio-based apparel group.

And it’s the latest sign that the once-mighty L Brands would rather divest than invest in its troubled assets, as witnessed with the news that its waning Henri Bendel brand would shut its doors in January after 123 years in operation.

It’s a tough time to be a large lingerie chain. Big sister Victoria’s Secret has seen its star fade amid spotty sales performance and profits, even if its glitzy, star-studded, over-the-top annual runway spectacle belies any sign of trouble. Shoppers flocking to the comfort and style of the enduring bralette trend have little reason to consider Victoria’s Secret’s ultra-sexy padded push-ups—or the similarly sultry merch at little-sister La Senza, which is projected to generate an operating loss of $40 million on $250 million in revenue this year, L Brands said in a statement.

Lingerie mainstays have been beset by competition from brands like Aerie, owned by American Eagle Outfitters, but also by startups such as Lively, Third Love and Adore Me that go direct to consumer without weighty real estate investments and overhead. Then there’s always the threat of acquisition from deep-pocketed competitors with the financial might to reshape the lingerie landscape. Case in point: Walmart late on Friday announced its acquisition of online lingerie retailer Bare Necessities for an undisclosed amount, citing among other things the intimates company’s “deep category expertise, a content offering designed to educate intimates shoppers, as well as strong brand relationships and operational capabilities.”

Beyond that, La Senza’s history also gives cause for concern. Six years post-acquisition, L pruned the chain’s store fleet by one third, reducing customer access to the brand’s selection of frilly bras, lacy panties, sensual sleepwear and more. Then, three years later in 2016, L trialed a small group of new La Senza stores in the Midwest, including in its Columbus hometown.

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Emboldened by the success of Victoria’s Secret’s PINK line targeting teen girls and college-age women, La Senza tried to copy that formula with the quickly folded Lola and Coco line.

Fashion veteran Michele Cloutier has served as the president of La Senza for seven years, after holding several positions of increasing responsibility at Gap Inc., Ann Taylor Inc., and Chico’s, with a brief stint outside the apparel world at Borders—another distressed chain forced to throw in the towel.

L Brands shares rose 12 percent on the Oct. 11 news that it was pursuing strategic opportunities for La Senza, Reuters reported.