Victoria’s Secret sues WTC landlord amid store closures and layoffs

The company said in March that it would close 53 stores this year

Oct.October 23, 2019 07:00 AM
A Victoria's Secret store in New York (Credit: Getty Images)

A Victoria’s Secret store in New York (Credit: Getty Images)

Embattled lingerie chain Victoria’s Secret is baring its knuckles for a fight with its landlord.

As the company copes with slowing sales and flagging relevance in the #MeToo era, it’s suing to terminate one of its leases for retail space in the Westfield World Trade Center Shopping Center.

According to a complaint filed in New York’s Supreme Court last week, Victoria’s Secret signed a lease for 1,536 square feet on the building’s lower level in March 2015. The shopping center was under construction at the time and was projected to open in October 2015.

The suit claimed the landlord — “New WTC Retail Owner LLC” — had agreed to give Victoria’s Secret a date the premises would be ready and to perform construction on the site, but “failed to perform any of these obligations.”

It’s not the only lawsuit filed over delays at the mall. In September 2018, Duane Reade sued the landlord for failing to provide its site in “tenant-ready condition.” The company sought a refund of the $171,407 it had spent on the deal and asked for its lease to be voided.

Despite repeated requests from the landlord, Victoria’s Secret said, it still does not have an expected date for the site, some four years after the expected store opening. The company leases a larger retail space in another part of the building. Both leases were negotiated at the same time.

“So much time has passed that now, not only have the retail outlook and goals for the location changed dramatically, the space is no longer suitable or viable for Victoria Secret’s commercial needs,” the complaint said. It accused the landlord of breach of contract and asked for the lease to be rescinded.

The lawsuit is the latest in a series of headaches for Victoria’s Secret. This month it laid off 50 employees and executive April Holt stepped down after 16 years with the company.

Its parent company, L Brands, announced in March that it would close 53 Victoria’s Secret stores across the country this year, as same-store sales dropped by 3 percent. The shuttered stores account for 4 percent of the 1,143 Victoria’s Secret stores around the world. 

According to a slideshow supplied by a representative about Victoria’s Secret’s financial position, since 2008 the company has opened 888 stores in “top-tier and off-mall venues” while closing 765 stores in “low-tier venues.” Its parent company projects it will close 40 to 60 Victoria’s Secret stores next year.

The wider retail sector is also hurting. This year, the parent company of fashion chain Gap announced it will close 230 stores, while Dollar Tree, owner of the Family Dollar chain, said it would close up to 390.

Representatives for Westfield declined to comment. 

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