Is There a Place For Victoria’s Secret in Today’s World?

Updated: Nov 25, 2018

This is about the VS fashion show and whether the company’s marketing tactics are up to speed with the rest of the world. Its profits, or lack of, would paint the picture very well.

They say the world has changed but Victoria’s Secret hasn’t. The last year has been quite a challenging one for the retail brand. Its dwindling sales suggest a major decline in interest from shoppers. According to reports from Statista, the brand’s audience dropped by almost 50% during 2014 to 2017, from US $9.12 million to $4.28 million - it’s quite a hefty fall.

Then in June, the lingerie company owned by L Brands started pumping out the sales, but even then it struggled to sell its heavily discounted lingerie. While this was only based on one month’s sales figures, when a brand starts overdoing the sales and it’s struggling to clear inventory, its one of the signs that it’s in major trouble and even close to game over, some would say.

Victoria’s Secret then proceeded to extend its sale by two weeks, dropping its prices further, which heavily affected its margin rates. Forbes recently reported that the brand’s comparable store sales and direct sales were also down 9% from 2016.

Shoppers are now gravitating towards brands that empower women.

With a rising voice and movement towards female empowerment over the last two years, the brand’s marketing tactics, portraying cheerleader type women walking the runway and racey over-sexualised photo shoots that appear to be targeting men more than women, has lost its gloss amongst consumers and it’s apparent that the feeling towards Victoria’s Secret has changed, significantly. I repeat, the world has changed but Victoria’s Secret hasn’t.

Shoppers are now gravitating towards brands that empower women. Take for instance US American Eagle Outfitter’s underwear brand Aerie. Over 2018, the company doubled down on its efforts to promote female empowerment which it says seems to be resonating well with customers all around the world. For the first quarter of 2018, Aerie reported a whopping 38% increase in same-store sales.

Aerie prides itself on its positive body images and ad campaigns.

“Aerie is simply on fire,” Jennifer Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president, said in a conference call with investors during that time. “We have only just begun,” she added, stating that the plan was to open another 35 to 40 stores accross the US.

Aerie prides itself on its positive body images and ad campaigns. It has made a mark in the fashion industry, disclosing that it does not Photoshop any of the images it uses in its ads. In 2014, the brand captured female shoppers when it swopped airbrushed images for untouched photos and real women, launching a positive-body campaign known as #AerieReal

Female empowerment is the biggest weapon that Aerie has over Victoria’s Secret.

Its posters in its stores go as far as to state “No retouching of these girls. We’re real.” I like it. It’s strong, it’s certainly empowering and it speaks to the customer in a positive way, real women who are the end users and target market of the brand, the same target market of Victoria’s Secret. Female empowerment is the biggest weapon that Aerie has over Victoria’s Secret and it would seem that it’s dynamite.

Interior of Aerie Store in NYC [Image Source | Business Insider]

The brand’s empowering and inspirational messages are consistent throughout the different touch points of the shopping experience, online and offline, and its affirmations appear on its clothing as well - “Aerie Real”.

The tone of Aerie stores are remarkably different to that of VS stores. I popped into the VS 5th avenue store last year when I was in New York for the NRF’s Big Retail Show. I was less than impressed. I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the garments or its fabrics which was one of the reasons why I walked out empty handed. Then there were the walls, which were adorned with provocative images on the borderline of pornography that didn’t seem like it was targeted to female shoppers. The tone just wasn’t right... it was off. It’s now 2018 Victoria’s Secret and you’ve sunk a little further, not just in my eyes but in women's eyes all around the world.

Note 20/11/18

On Monday, L Brands announced that Victoria's Secret's CEO of two years, Jan Singer, has stepped down and been replaced with John Mehas, who is currently the president of Tory Burch.

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