Victoria’s Secret is the American lingerie retailer that dominates the global women’s nightwear and underwear market. It was founded in 1977 by Roy Raymond, who wanted men and women to feel comfortable shopping for lingerie at his high-end San Francisco store. The company was acquired in 1982 by retail billionaire Leslie Wexner, and the brand grew exponentially under his ownership. Its annual fashion show – which featured a select few supermodels wearing barely there lingerie and sporting massive wings and six-inch heels – became a cultural phenomenon, making the brand synonymous with feminine beauty and sexuality.
In recent years, however, the Victoria’s Secret brand has begun to lose market share to more inclusive rival lingerie brands and startups that feature models of all shapes and sizes, race and ethnicity, and gender identity in their marketing campaigns. These more inclusive strategies have resonated with a born-online generation that demanded to see themselves represented in the media and advertising. The brand’s continued reliance on an impossibly narrow conception of beauty and its over-sexualized ad campaigns have alienated many potential customers.
As a result, in December 2018, the Victoria’s Secret brand canceled its long-running annual fashion show after it had aired for two decades. The brand cited declining viewership as a primary reason, and also attributed the cancellation to a desire to focus on the development of new product lines.
The brand is undergoing a major marketing transformation. Its latest campaign, named ’Undefinable’, features a variety of models, including MMA fighter Rose Namajunas and paralympic athlete Femita Ayanbeku, who are all a far cry from the blonde bombshells that were once synonymous with the brand. The campaign aims to shatter stereotypes and promote the idea that Victoria’s Secret is for anyone who feels confident and empowered.
While this shift is promising, it will not be easy for the brand to regain its market share and sales. It will have to continue to evolve its image and message in order to appeal to the next generation of women. Moreover, it must keep up with the competition, which includes upstart lingerie brands and celebrities like Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty that feature models of all shapes and sizes.
Despite these challenges, the brand continues to be profitable. Its new initiatives and a revamped customer loyalty program are expected to boost growth over the next few years. The company is also planning to close a few hundred of its stores over the next few months, but it expects these changes to be accretive to earnings per share for 2023. This restructuring is a part of VS&Co’s broader plans to reduce expenses through sourcing changes and a reduction in store selling costs. In addition, it is separating its lotion and candle businesses from its bra brands. The restructure will reduce the company’s overall operating expense by approximately $600 million in fiscal 2023.