During the 1980s and 1990s, Victoria’s Secret rose to power and became the undisputed leader in the market for lingerie. It was simply understood that if women wanted to look and feel sexy, Victoria’s Secret was the brand for them: there was no alternative. On that idea alone, a billion-dollar empire was born.
Now, though, that idea is eroding, and perhaps the empire is too. According to The New York Times, the iconic brand is now in decline, with stock values falling and numerous other indicators saying this could be the beginning of the end.
The Times reported that in 2018 alone, the company stock has lost 41 percent of its value. Additionally, a 2017 study from Wells Fargo found that 68 percent of consumers like the Victoria’s Secret brand less than they used to, with 60 percent saying it now feels “forced” or “fake.” On top of that, the televised “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show” has lost nearly half its viewership in the last five years. And just this week Jan Singer, CEO of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, announced that she’s stepping down. The blows just keep coming.
“Victoria’s Secret is losing share to other brands because it’s out of touch,” Citi retail analyst Paul Lejuez told the Times. “The way it’s marketing is out of touch. Women don’t want to be viewed as stereotypical sexy supermodels buying lingerie just to impress men.”
Perhaps one flaw in the Victoria’s Secret business model has been an unwillingness to change, even though the times have. Women’s liberation from conventional ideas of sexuality has been an ongoing trend in the last few decades, and yet the company hasn’t budged—its 2018 fashion show was nearly identical to the event it first held in 1995. Unsurprisingly, consumers have been turned off by this lack of innovation. One customer told the Times that she stopped shopping at Victoria’s Secret about 10 years ago, disillusioned with the brand’s overwhelming “pinkness” and its inauthentic take on modern women’s glamour.
With Victoria’s Secret struggling to meet changing consumer expectations, a number of competitors have emerged, offering new ideas to excite customers. The Times highlighted a handful of them, including True and Co, which offers a quiz to help customers find clothes that will fit; and Knix, whose garments are equipped with cutting-edge technology to deal with leaking sweat.
“We are seeing a lot more of body positive campaigns, pushes for diversity,” author and industry expert Cora Harrington said. “Ideas of ‘sexy’ have changed and are changing.”
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