The Limited finally goes online


Mall walkers know The Limited well. For the past 45 years, the chain has graced shopping centers and currently has 225 locations across the country. Now, the company is going virtual with an online shopping site. What took it so long?

The company's history is a mishmash of purchases and sales. With The Limited stores as its flagship, the company expanded into Limited Brands and at one point or another, also owned Bath & Body Works, Victoria's Secret, Henri Bendel's, Express, Lerner's, Lane Bryant, Limited Too, and Abercrombie & Fitch. But no longer. Now most of those properties are still under the banner of Limited Brands, but The Limited itself is a property of Sun Capital Partners, Inc., a leading private investment firm focused on leveraged buyouts. The spin-off happened in 2007, so forgive the Limited if it's coming a little late to the online retail sector.

As CEO and president Linda Heasley told WalletPop today in an online interview, "Limited Brands did not perceive e-commerce as an important part of our brand extension." So up until now, they've only ever had a splash page. But, she added, "Once we were acquired by Sun Capital in July 2007, setting up e-Commerce was one of the first major business objectives we undertook since becoming independent for Limited Brands. We know the internet is such a big part of our customer's everyday life and what the modern woman needs is convenience because of the busy and active lifestyle she leads. Besides that, our clients have been asking for an online store for quite some time."

The new site is a traditional online clothing retailer, offering seasonal clothes, specials and all the usual categories of tops, pants, outwear and accessories. faces a steep uphill battle coming back to the game so late, trying to compete against more established sites. Expect discount codes to come shortly, but for now, most of the "specials" are not so low-priced.

But the sector is doing better and better every year, so might actually have good timing. Last year, online clothing sales beat out computer sales for the first time. Among the top 500 retailers ranked by Internet Retailer, most of them are office supply sites or computer-related. But Sears, which is struggling mightily in this economy, is number 8. On Nielsen's top 10 online retailers list for July 2008, clothing retailers did very well, with J. Jill, in a similar category to the Limited, scoring 4th place, and LL Bean and Children's Place also ranking in the top 10. So there's hope yet for late bloomers.