Bath & Body Works staying strong with cult-like following

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Bath & Body Works made headlines this week for a slugfest caught on camera between a customer and store employees. While the video has gone viral, the attention it has received overshadows the enduring appeal of the store itself – even as shopping malls are dwindling across the U.S.

Coresight Research estimated last year that around 25% of America’s roughly 1,000 shopping malls will close in the next three to five years. Despite this forecast, Bath & Body Works has reported an increase in annual revenue.

An employee with a face mask stands at the door as a customer enters a Bath & Body Works store on July 21, 2020 in Pembroke Pines, Florida.  (Getty Images)

According to its latest earnings report, the company reported a net income of $860.3 million, or $3.03 per share, in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $192.3 million, or $0.70 a share, during the same period a year ago.

Its products continue to attract large customers, as demonstrated by a holiday special in December during an epidemic that brought the world to a hault.

Video shared by WAFB's Matt Houston showed a long line of people — despite the COVID pandemic — waiting to get a normally $24.50 3-wick scented candle on sale for $9.55.

Last month, the company said it will open 49 new locations in the U.S. and one in Canada.

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The company, owned by L Brands, was founded in 1990 and has since become a familiar sight in shopping malls, with hundreds of fragrances.

On its website, the company says its stores are “home to America’s Favorite Fragrances offering a breadth of exclusive fragrances for the body and home, including the #1 selling collections for body lotion and body cream, body wash, hand soap and fine fragrance mist.”

Much of its success is due to the science behind the fragrances of its products, which are deliberately designed to evoke nostalgia.

Patricia Bilodeau, senior perfumer of the Scent and Care Division North America who works with Bath & Body Works, was one of the brains behind Bath & Body Works’ Twisted Peppermint Scene.

“To me, this scent captures the nostalgic spirit of the holidays and I think that’s what people love about it,” Bilodeau told the lifestyle website HelloGiggles, in 2019.

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Another reason for the stores’ appeal is its design as a down-home style entity modeled after its fictional founder, “Kate.” According to Forbes, each store is modeled like “Kate’s house,” and customers are treated like guests who never feel like they’re shopping.

A Bath & Body Works customer who evidently didn’t feel at home while shopping at a store in Arizona’s Fashion Square Mall on Saturday was caught on video brawling with employees.

Scottsdale Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Kevin Quon told Fox News that the incident was started over someone cutting in line and that it was “not mask nor race-related.” He added that the two female subjects involved in the fight have been cited criminally for the incident.

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A spokesperson for L Brands told Fox News that it is "deeply concerned by the incident in one of our stores" and that they are "currently investigating the matter in partnership with local law enforcement."

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