Victoria’s Secret: The Brand Is Struggling

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Victoria's Secret

Victoria’s Secret, the purveyor of underwear, women’s clothing, lingerie, swimwear, footwear, fragrances, beauty products and make-up, became a bellwether of a new kind of bold sexiness in the 1970s.

But today, at 41 years old, Victoria’s Secret is in a “steady decline” according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that the vision of sexiness defined by the Ohio-based retailer—busty “Angel” models—has “lost its appeal.”

John Mehas, president of Tory Burch, will take over as CEO of Victoria’s Secret early next year. “I am confident that, under John’s leadership, Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, the world’s leading lingerie brand, will continue to be a powerhouse and will deliver products and experiences that resonate with women around the globe,” said Les Wexner, chairman and CEO of the L Brands, which owns Victorias Secret.

Competition is increasing from retailers such as the Gap and American Eagle, while online rivals, including Lively, ThirdLove and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty, offer lower prices and a growing range of sizes for plus-size customers.

“These companies were founded by women, and were born of a frustration with the industry at large. Victoria’s Secret, on the other hand, was designed with the straight male consumer in mind,” reports The New York Times.

Victoria’s Secret CEO Jan Singer resigned last week after two years at the helm, and the company has closed 1,000 stores in the US, many located in failing shopping malls.

“Victoria’s Secret has been struggling to keep up with changing consumer tastes,” notes CNN. “Flashy fashion shows, push-up bras and celebrity models aren’t drawing people in like they used to. Instead, women are clamoring for more products with a better fit.”

Wexner adds: “We have lost our close connection to our customer. … Our new leaders are coming in with a fresh perspective and looking at everything … our marketing, brand positioning, internal talent, real estate portfolio and cost structure. Most important is improving our merchandise assortments.”

Out of step with women’s growing desire for comfort, fit and authenticity, CMO Ed Razek recently added fuel to the fire when asked if Victoria’s Secret would offer bigger sizes or feature a transgender model in its fashion show. His response: “Why don’t you do 50? Why don’t you do 60? Why don’t you do 24? It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is.”

“I was completely appalled reading Ed Razek’s comments,” said Heidi Zak, co-founder and co-CEO of ThirdLove. “What kind of leader and what kind of man would say such discriminatory things? It was obvious how out of touch with reality he is—women are rejecting brands that are built on the exclusivity he was touting.”

Zak took out a full-page ad in The New York Times with an open letter addressed to Victoria’s Secret including a call-to-action: “It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy—let us decide.”

The top of the ad, in pink typeface read “An Open Letter to Victoria’s Secret,” and details why she was “appalled” by Razek’s remarks: “You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a ’42-minute entertainment special.’ Your show may be a ‘fantasy,’ but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents and serve their country.”

Some women remain in the brand’s favor. The 2018 Victoria’s Secret show, set to air on Dec. 2, features superstar “Angels” and lingerie-clad models, including Adriana Lima, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Karlie Kloss and Winnie Harlow. The Kardashian and Jenner sisters dressed up as Victoria’s Secret Angels for Halloween.

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