Good morning, everyone. This is Amie Preston, Chief Investor Relations Officer, and this is Limited Brands April sales report for the 4-week period ending April 28, 2012. As a matter formality, I need to remind you that any forward-looking statements I may make today are subject to the Safe Harbor statement found on our SEC filings.
Total Limited Brands sales for the 4 weeks ended April 28, 2012, were $659 million versus sales of $683.2 million for the 4 weeks ended April 30, 2011. April 2011 sales included $59.2 million that was attributable to the third-party apparel sourcing business, which was sold in November 2011. Limited Brands April comps were up 6% against a 20% increase last year.
The April merchandise margin rate was up significantly to last year. As a reminder, our total company merchandise margin rate is positively impacted by the sale of the third-party apparel sourcing business. Absent this impact, our merchandise margin rate would have been down to last year in April.
Inventories ended the month up 9% per square foot at cost, as we accelerated receipts to chase into sales at Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works.
First quarter sales were $2.154 billion compared to $2.217 billion last year. First quarter 2011 sales included $214 million attributable to the third-party apparel sourcing business. First quarter comps increased 7% against a 15% increase last year.
We expect to report first quarter earnings per share of $0.38 to $0.40. Versus our previous guidance of $0.35 to $0.40, our first quarter results were negatively impacted by $0.04 to $0.05 per share due to costs related to severance and a higher tax rate.
At Victoria's Secret stores, April comparable store sales were up 8% against a 25% increase last year. Sales growth was driven by strength in Lingerie and Pink. April began with the continuation of the March launch of Victoria's Secret's Fabulous. Mid-month, we shifted our floor set focus to the Dream Angels bra collection, Love is Heavenly fragrance and our Pink Heartbreaker! bra.
The merchandise margin rate was down to last year driven by planned promotional activity and by the impact of the mix shift to Lingerie and Pink from beauty. Merchandise margin dollars increased versus last year.
First quarter sales at Victoria's Secret stores were $1.088 billion, and comps increased 9% against a 19% increase last year. May will begin with the continuation of our Dream Angels collection, the Love is Heavenly fragrance and our Pink Heartbreaker! bra. Mother's Day gifting will also be a focus. Mid-month, we will shift focus to a new floor set, which will include a new bra and fragrance launch.
At Victoria's Secret Direct, April sales were up 2% led by strength in slim, Pink, knits and dresses. The April merchandise margin rate was about flat to last year. First quarter sales at Victoria's Secret Direct were $382 million, up 4% to last year. Direct is planning 14 fewer slim and semiannual sale days in May, which will negatively impact sales but result in higher full-price selling.
At Bath & Body Works, April comps were up 4% against a 16% increase last year, driven by the performance of our Signature Collection, anti-bac and home fragrance categories. The merchandise margin rate for the month was flat to last year. First quarter sales were $505 million, and comps were up 6% against an 11% increase last year. We will continue our Wild Garden theme through Mother's Day. We then transition to our American Boardwalk theme that features new and seasonal fragrances in home fragrance.
At La Senza, April comps were down 5%. The merchandise margin rate was down significantly to last year, driven by incremental promotional activity. First quarter sales were $75.3 million, and comps decreased 1%.
In closing, we are planning May comps up in the low single-digit range. Thank you for your continuing interest in Limited Brands.
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