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Victoria’s Secret has soared in value during the pandemic

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Victoria’s Secret is about to hit the block again — and the company’s price tag is set to grow a few sizes.

Less than a year after a $1 billion deal to sell the struggling lingerie label got scrapped with the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the company is now preparing for a sale or a spinoff that could fetch more than four times that figure, industry experts told The Post.

In addition to aggressive cost cuts during the pandemic, analysts say the 43-year-old brand is surging in value as it finally has begun catering to women with more diverse shapes and sizes.

Victoria’s Secret’s owner L Brands — whose former chairman Les Wexner also got dinged last year because of the 83-year-old billionaire’s ties to dead pedophile Jeffrey Epstein — has tapped Goldman Sachs to lead a sale of the bra-and-panties empire. Pitchbooks with recent financials are slated to begin circulating in the coming days, sources said.

Victoria's Secret model Devyn Garcia
Victoria’s Secret model Devyn Garcia
Victoria’s Secret

The numbers will look far better than what they did last spring, when L Brands was forced to drop a deal with the private-equity fund Sycamore Partners to sell 55-percent stake of the company for $525 million. Sycamore had sued to exit the deal after it found out Victoria’s Secret’s stores had been skipping rent after the onset of the pandemic.

This week, L Brands said Victoria’s Secret’s fourth-quarter earnings before interest and taxes more than doubled from a year earlier despite a 15-percent sales drop — a signal that shoppers are willing to pay full price for its frilly wares.

Nine months after ditching its $1 billion Sycamore deal, Victoria’s Secret now “could be worth $4 to $5 billion,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst Simeon Siegel. He reckons that prospective buyers will be willing to pay at least six times the company’s Ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

“The issue was never getting people to buy the product but to get them to pay full price,” Siegel added.

Berna Barshay, editor of Empire Financial Daily, a New York-based newsletter, confirms that “the more bullish buyside estimates at hedge funds are north of $4 billion” for a Victoria’s Secret sale, which the company is aiming to wrap up by August. The brand was valued at $15 billion just five years ago, she noted.

“Sycamore had a steal at $1 billion and will have regrets over busting out of the deal,” Barshay added. “I think Sycamore panicked and Victoria’s Secret weathered the storm better than people would have expected.”

To many, Victoria’s Secret had looked like a lost cause even before COVID-19. The splashy runway shows that anchored its supermodel-based strategy and fueled spectacular growth in the 1990s had become the butt of criticism and jokes. Meanwhile, a slew of rivals were notching growth by hawking more natural looks and catering to plus-size women.

Victoria's Secret model Candice Huffine
Victoria’s Secret model Candice Huffine
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

This week, however, Victoria’s Secret executives confirmed they quietly have been reining in discounts and boosting profit margins, even as they’ve shuttered 250 of the company’s 900 stores and imposed massive layoffs. In what looked like a reference to recent marketing pushes with plus-size models like Devyn Garcia and Candice Huffine, management said Thursday the brand aims to become “more inclusive and relevant to the modern woman.”

“We are moving away from what we think is sexy to support her in whatever she thinks she needs,” said Martin Waters, chief executive of Victoria’s Secret lingerie. “We think we should be appealing to all women for more stages of her life [and] we haven’t always had that balance right which has led to opportunities for competitors being able to attack us.”

As The Post reported last month, the moves are starting to pay off as cooped-up women look for ways to splurge on themselves as their options for travel and entertainment have all but dried up, analysts say.

“It’s so nice to see a fuller figure woman in a VS ad,” a customer recently wrote on the company’s Facebook page. “I was in the store today and saw a lot more lingerie in larger sizes, especially the bras. Someone with the company is finally realizing beautiful women are in all sizes.”

–Additional reporting by Thornton McEnery

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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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