Victoria’s Secret is laying off about 15% of the brand’s employees at its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters as the beleaguered lingerie chain struggles to reshape its image and the chief executive of its parent company remains under scrutiny for his ties to Jeffrey Epstein.
The cuts, which took place Wednesday and Thursday, involved about 50 people and range from senior leaders to junior staff.
The timing of the layoffs was unusual in the retail industry, just before the key holiday season — and followed an optimistic outlook delivered to investors by the chief of its parent company, Leslie Wexner, last month. L Brands, the parent company, also owns Bath & Body Works.
Language in the separation agreement seemed to speak to the intense microscope the company finds itself under. The document asked departing executives to agree that they would not make any statements to the media about the company, its employees or operations, and that they would “direct all contacts from the media” regarding the company to Tammy Roberts Myers, an L Brands spokeswoman, or her successor. That language did not appear in a separation agreement from 2017.
Myers said in a statement Thursday that the company “announced new leadership positions and organizational changes that help us simplify the business, which allows us to be more agile.”
Victoria’s Secret, once a powerhouse that shaped the notion of sexiness for many Americans, has found itself at odds with consumer tastes in the #MeToo era. The shares of its parent company, L Brands, have plummeted in recent years, and it has ceded market share to nimble, more inclusive competitors.
The brand has also been dogged by Wexner’s ties to Epstein, the financier who was arrested in July and charged with sex trafficking involving girls as young as 14. Wexner, 82, has sought to distance himself from the financier, whom he employed for more than a decade.
Epstein died in August in prison. L Brands said in July that it had hired lawyers at the direction of its board “to conduct a thorough review” into Wexner’s relationship with Epstein. The investigation is still ongoing, and the company has not provided an update on the query.
Separately, April Holt, Victoria’s Secret’s head of stores and store operations, said she was stepping down this week.