US lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret is to shut a quarter of its stores in its home market of North America following the collapse of sales hopes.

Victoria’s Secret, owned by L Brands, will close 250 branches in the USA and Canada over the next few months and more may follow.

L Brands chief financial officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said the closures were a “very significant decision” but designed to “strengthen” Victoria’s Secret, CNN reported.

L Brands will also shut 50 Bath & Body Works stores, mainly in malls where it is anticipated than footfall will not return to pre-pandemic levels.

Victoria’s Secret was already under pressure before the coronavirus outbreak. It suffered a further blow when a proposed deal to sell a majority stake to private equity house Sycamore Partners fell through.

Although L Brands ended the plans, Sycamore had launched legal action in pursuit of the same objective. Sycamore argued that L Brands’ decision to shut shops and stop paying rent during the pandemic breached the terms of the deal.

In the first quarter, L Brands posted a loss of $296.9m on sales down 37% to $1.65bn.

Separately, Australian value department store chain Target, owned by Wesfarmers, said it would close 75 shops. Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said the business had been hit by intense competition, including from online players.