Victoria’s Secret – The Lingerie Brand That ‘Emancipation Forgot’

The lingerie brand that ’emancipation forgot’ has spent the past year trying to shift from a personification of male lust to a company representing female empowerment. But many customers don’t realize it. The retailer’s ads now feature women of all ethnicities, sizes and ages wearing its lingerie. They include a pregnant model, a transgender woman and plus-size models Paloma Elsesser and Ali Tate-Cutler. The company is also bringing back swimwear and activewear, two categories it exited in recent years. In an interview with Bloomberg, VP of retail and marketing Mary Adamson acknowledged that the company had lost its way as it grew from a catalog into a global retailer that was constantly expanding its product line.

But even as the company retools its identity, it faces new competition from online retailers like Adore Me and True & Co. and from new players like Skims, a brand launched last year by Kim Kardashian and valued at more than $3 billion. It also faces challenges from a challenging retail environment and a consumer who prefers to shop for bras, thongs and pajamas at Target or on Depop, a privately-held marketplace for secondhand clothing.

When the Victoria’s Secret brand was booming in the aughts, its runway shows were broadcast to millions of people in over 100 countries and featured supermodel Angels like Gisele Bundchen, Adriana Lima and Tyra Banks. Its yearly TV special was so popular that its viewers once crashed the website when 1.5 million people tried to watch it at once. The show became the crown jewel of the company’s massive marketing campaign.

Yet by the time Victoria’s Secret president and chief executive officer Stefano Perotti assumed the role in 2018, he was facing declining sales. He was also the target of an explosive Hulu documentary about its founder’s ties with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. And the 2018 version of the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show had the lowest viewership in its history, with only 3.2 million tuning in to see supermodel Karlie Kloss walk.

The company responded with a massive marketing campaign that dropped the overtly sexual overtones of its previous campaigns and promoted its newest initiatives, including a more inclusive image, a relaunch of the bra-size index and the introduction of body-positive lingerie. But analysts say the campaign may not have gone far enough to win back customers.

In a survey of 1,100 women, two out of three said their social values influenced the brands they buy from, and more than half said they were more loyal to companies that promote diversity and inclusion in their advertising. But in the same poll, Victoria’s Secret was ranked 73rd out of 94 apparel and beauty brands for its gender equality policies.