Thursday, November 16, 2006

LaSenza sold to parent of Victoria's Secret for $710 million

National Post, reported in

DealBreaker's Opening Bell

Limited Brands Inc., the owner of Victoria's Secret, which sued La Senza Corp. earlier this year over a patented bra, has agreed to buy the Canadian lingerie retailer for $710-million.
The move could see La Senza make another foray into the U.S. market or see Victoria's Secret bring its higher-end lingerie boutiques into Canada, La Senza chief executive Irv Teitelbaum said in an interview after yesterday's announcement.

This deal represents a substantial premium over their market capitalization, and an exciting opportunity for LaSenza execs to ponder expansion options now that they've got deeper pockets.

Really though, the best line about the merger belongs to DealBreaker's Joe Weisenthal:

The move ends some bitter cleavage in the lingerie market, as Victoria's secret had actually sued La Senza over a patent dispute.

I've been sitting her for five minutes trying to trump that with something about padding market cap, or pushing up their year-end figures, but I've got nothing, nothing!

I need more coffee.

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Anonymous said...

Here's one for the "truth is stranger than fiction files" from "one who knows".

In the fall of 1989, at the same time Sony of Canada's retail division head office staff and store managers were at Disney World in Florida for a "manager's conference" - described by one participant as one day of meetings followed by three days of "run free Sony people" - so too were the Distirct Managers and head office staff of the Victoria's Secret chain.

The following are a few recollections from that somewhat surreal episode. While I remain anonymous to protect the guilty, I can reveal that I was the one who was run over by the golf cart (thus do I establih my credentials for those who know).

The reason the Sony store managers were in Disney World was partly because the division had just experienced its first profitable year (depending upon whose accountants you believed) and we were simultaneously being rewarded and also offered a lesson in extreme customer service. We may or may not have deserved the reward but we were sorely in need of the lesson.

And we got it in spades!

From a resort employee driving one of our group about 2 kilometers in a golf cart at 4 in the morning to the only open convenience store so he could purchase cigarettes, to the check out clerks sending a van to the airport on checkout day with a person to deliver a wallet and gift bag that one of my compatriots left behind at the desk, Disney delivered big time! If you can't have a good time at one of their resorts (excluding Euro-Disney) then just kill yourself. Mmmm-kay?!?

The reason the Sony store managers needed the lesson can be understood by the attitude some of them displayed while in the "Magic Kingdom".

I witnessed an ugly and petty confrontation between one Sony store manager and one of the VS DMs. It took place in the hot tub by the pool closest to our condo/hotel rooms. The manager from the Sony store was being condescending to the lady from VS. She was giving as good as she got, but it totally soured the possibility of any cordial relations between our two groups for the duration of our stay.

Later I also witnessed most of the VS DMs, all women, dancing with their vice president at one of the clubs on Pleasure Island - think of an island that is a club made up of a bunch of clubs with a street party connecting all of them where the motto is "Every night is Saturday night and every Saturday night is New Year's Eve." Try to remember this is Disney World and not Vegas. Oh and yes, the VP was a man, the only man I could discern connected with the VS contingent. You may write your own pithy line here - mine has something to do with the ultimate American corporate wet dream.

It was an interesting juxtaposition of two different retail cultures though. The Sony stores were managed almost exclusively by men (boys and their toys don't you know) and the VS DMs were all women. There was one lady in the Sony manager's ranks at the time and she was hanging out with the group I was with, but she was most definately the exception in our company. The VS ladies were all District Managers, each responsible for a number of stores. Sony stores sell hard goods. VS is of course a fashion or "white goods" endeavor. Each caters to a market that is, in the public's mind at least, largely identifiable by gender, although in the late 80's research was appearing that was indicating that increasingly the client base of the Sony store was becoming female.

Victoria's Secret has long understood that they cater equally to men and women. Women who purchase their wares as a gift for their men, and men who purchase their wares as a gift for their women which ends up being a gift for themselves anyway - but so much more romantic than a new monogrammed pink bowling ball given to your significant other, who doesn't bowl, that just happens to be weighted and fitted for yourself. VS couldn't lose, and the folks at that convention knew it. They were all smiles and confidence, and history has affirmed their attitude, although one does wonder why even today on the corporate website of Limited Brands Inc. the top dude is well..., still a dude. Brave new business world indeed! Equality of the sexes in the corporate sphere remains as elusive as it does in any arena of life.

The Sony stores were, at the time, the upstart division of Sony of Canada, created largely as an internal corporate goad intended to motivate and/or frustrate the wholesale division and their dealer network. They were managed mostly by veteran audio reatil warriors with jaded outlooks and narrow vision. The division manager of the day, Peter Hannis, had made his mark in the electronics department of a major Canadian department store and had come to Sony to lead the fledgling retail division. In my nearly 20 years in retail he was the only senior manager ever to truly, sincerely convey the impression that for him, the stores and their staff were the number one priority. In short, he was the only leader in business I would ever feel confident, even priviledged to follow. Not surprisingly, Sony of Canada turfed him unceremoniously shortly after our Florida adventure, thus making the definitive statement about the corporate culture in that company in those days.

In 1989 I was one of the retail "managers of the year" and hopeful about my career. Most of our managers were smiling like the VS ladies, but I think we were mostly smiling because of the free beer. Not many people associated with Sony anywhere are smiling these days, alcohol notwithstanding. Again, I must say that I believe the slide into ignominity for Sony International began when they lost the visionary leadership of Akio Morita and were unable, or unwilling, to seek an equally gifted replacement. The problems with Sony of Canada, the only distributer of the brand anywhere in the world ever to be majority controlled by a group other than Sony International, were unfortunately of the home grown variety, but those are stories for another day.

I still regret that silly and petty exchange between my brother manager and that district manager from VS all those years ago. We might have learned a few valuable lessons by visiting with them. To paraphrase Forrest Gump in a wildly twisted way, "Smart business is as smart business does." But it was not to be.

As happens far too often in the interactions between men and women, be it in the halls of business or the malls of everyday life, some are left to wonder "what might have been".

(Cue "Strangers in the Night" and fade to black.)

Lee_D said...

Wow. I had heard that story before, but the analysis was fantastic.

There's a lesson there for everybody, I think.

Thanks for coming out of retirement to share that!

Anonymous said...

Years later, I'm happy and grateful to find your kind comments about SONY Canada and my father, the late Peter J. Hannis. I would love to know more about what it was like to work for him.
Many thanks,
Alexia Hannis