Bath & Body Works is now a standalone company — we visited a store and saw why it's been L Brands' secret weapon

Bethany Biron/Business InsiderBath & Body Works is now a standalone company.
  • Bath & Body Works is now a standalone brand after parent company L Brands announced on Thursday it had sold a majority stake in Victoria’s Secret to the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners.
  • As part of the move, L Brands CEO Les Wexner is stepping down from the company. Andrew Meslow, current COO of Bath & Body Works, will take over at the helm after the transaction closes.
  • Bath & Body Works has long been a bright spot for the struggling L Brands. The personal-goods retailer has found success by playing to the power of nostalgia while staying relevant with updated stores and new product tests.
  • We visited one of three Bath & Body Works locations in Manhattan to see what it’s doing right.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

After several years of serving as a bright spot for the ailing L Brands, Bath & Body Works is now a standalone brand.

L Brands announced Thursday it would sell a majority stake in Victoria’s Secret to the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners, while longtime CEO Les Wexner will exit the company. Though L Brands once operated a thriving roster of mall brands like The Limited, Express, and Abercrombie & Fitch, it will now be reduced to solely Bath & Body Works.

Best known for its bountiful selection of personal care and bath products, Bath & Body Works has continued to be a success story for its parent company. Still, it hasn’t been enough to carry the struggling company, which was continuing to stumble under the weight of Victoria’s Secret’s slumping sales and increasingly poor public perception.

The sale comes after nearly two years of pressure from investors urging L Brands to split Bath & Body Works from its lingerie sister brand: In March 2019, hedge fund Barington Capital sent a lengthy letter to L Brands CEO Les Wexner arguing for a spinoff.

Last year, we visited a Bath & Body Works store in Manhattan’s Flatiron District to see what’s helping set the retailer apart. Here’s what we found.


The Flatiron Bath & Body Works is one of three locations in Manhattan, and it was bustling with shoppers at 11 a.m. on a Monday. Bath & Body Works is one of the largest personal care and home goods retailers in the world, with more than 1,600 stores.

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Source: USA Today


Though the first store opened in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bath & Body Works was founded and is headquartered in New Albany, Ohio. We found a small display honouring its hometown.

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Since its conception in 1990, the retailer has worked to maintain a wholesome image, effectively becoming “America’s sweetheart of beauty brands.” Its marketing and store design are very intentional, with smatterings of gingham, wooden barrels, and other nods to “country living.”

Source: Racked


Bath & Body Works has developed a rabid following over the past three decades. Today there are fan blogs and YouTube accounts dedicated to sharing new products.

YouTube/Tina MarieUser Tina Marie shows off her latest haul in a video posted last month.

Source: YouTube


Even celebrities like Rumer Willis can’t get enough of Bath & Body Works. The actress was spotted browsing candles at a store in Los Angeles in 2010.


Bath & Body Works has worked to establish loyalty with its core consumer base of millennial women thanks to a product assortment that blends nostalgic items with updated seasonal offerings.

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The store we visited also had plenty of fun, whimsical items perfectly fit for a children’s gift.

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At the same time, Bath & Body Works has expanded its inventory to attract new demographics, including men. At the Flatiron store, we found a collection of men’s bath and shaving products strategically marketed for Father’s Day.

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In recent years, Bath & Body Works has found particular success with its White Barn Shop concept, which focuses on candles and air fresheners.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

The company continues to invest heavily in White Barn and often runs popular promotions like “3-for-1” deals on candles.

Source: USA Today


The White Barn collection really goes all-in on seasonal products, including new scents like “Island Reef” and “Suntan.”

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In addition to classic scents like vanilla, Bath & Body Works sells a vast collection of quirky, off-the-beaten-path candle fragrances. Here are a few of the more obscure ones we found at the Manhattan store.

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Looking for something a bit cosmopolitan? Spring for some eau de San Francisco.

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Still unclear what it’s supposed to smell like.


Can’t say we’ve ever had a berry waffle cone, but we wouldn’t mind eating one after smelling this.

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They even have special occasion candles for all your sentimental needs.

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Part of Bath & Body Work’s continued success is its investment in store design and remodeling, which has brought a breath of fresh air to the brand.

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The Manhattan store was brightly coloured and well-lit, with flowers lining the displays.


Elements of the store felt like being in a time capsule, like the sink where shoppers could test products — an integral part of the brand’s early ’90s stores.

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Children of the ’90s will also be delighted to find the occasional classic scent, like this Cucumber Melon hand sanitizer …

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… and this Sweet Pea lotion.

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However, as we all know, some products were simply just too good to last, like the Bath & Body Works Art Stuff line.

Poshmark

The collection, which was popular in the late ’90s and early aughts before it was discontinued, has inspired many an ode. You can also occasionally find the original products on resale sites, though they go quickly.


Meanwhile, over on eBay you can snag some OG Art Stuff for a cool $US27.30.

eBay

Still, Bath & Body Works isn’t afraid to test new scents. Its Gingham line has been a surprise hit, which executives have credited to its “sophisticated” appeal.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

Source: MarketWatch


Ultimately, Bath & Body Works has become the rare retailer that consistently draws a stream of loyal customers to its brick-and-mortar stores.

Bethany Biron/Business Insider

On February 20, L Brands announced it was selling its majority share of Victoria’s Secret to Sycamore Partners, effectively making Bath & Body Works a standalone company.

AP

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