When one thinks of lingerie, the brand that automatically comes to mind would be Victoria’s Secret. This comes as no surprise because the premium lingerie brand has been the market leader in the intimates industry, and its highly anticipated annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show never fails to generate enough buzz and excitement to break the Internet. However, behind all the glitz and glamour that the brand exudes in stores, online, and on the runway, is a reality that the company has been experiencing for quite some time: sales have been declining.
The most recent press release by parent company L Brands showed that Victoria’s Secret has not gotten out of its sales slump. Third quarter sales of 2017 have decreased to $1,538 million as compared to 2016’s $1,584 million of the same quarter. Moreover, comparable sales for November haven’t been looking up as well.
Analysts have been following the brand’s financial developments, dissecting the why’s and projecting the what’s of the brand’s future. On the outset, the reason for the brand’s financial decline would be the elimination of their swimwear and apparel lines which the company had executed in May of 2016. Such short-term effects were expected this year, but how Victoria’s Secret will fare in the long run is dependent on their marketing strategy.
According to Business Insider, what gave the brand an edge in the industry would be its unique product differentiation. Victoria’s Secret is all about making women feel sexy and confident, and this position is reflected not only in their products but in their store displays as well.
First, it made lingerie something extremely covetable to women with its luxurious and high-quality designs and premium pricing—lingerie is an indulgence. Next, the brand’s extremely immersive shopping experience is another thing that set the bar for its competitors. Think about it—if you hang the very same products on a cold rack at a department store, the Victoria’s Secret experience just wouldn’t be the same. With its hot pink and black interiors and Victorian-style dressing rooms, the brand makes customers “feel like they’re shopping in a supermodel’s boudoir”. Victoria’s Secret is associated with this decadent shopping feel, and it just can’t be replicated anywhere else.
Lastly, another key aspect in the brand’s marketing strategy would be its promotions that have the Victoria’s Secret Angels at the heart of it. These brand ambassadors are the faces of every print and digital advertisement, whether it’s on the brand’s official website, its varied social media accounts, or at the store itself—they’re here to remind you that you can be sexy like them (by buying VS lingerie of course!).
This core strategy has given the brand wings, but as it turns out, the glitter seems to be fading. As in every industry, trends have a way of shaking things up (or maybe even rattling) an already established and renowned brand such as Victoria’s Secret. In this case, according to CNN Money, a deeper reason for the brand’s slow decline would be that women want to be more comfortable.
In 2016, the bralette trend served as a wake-up call because it provided an opportunity for other brands to join the intimates apparel bandwagon as bralettes are easier to make compared to underwire bras (and on the consumer’s side, a lot easier to wear!). Within Victoria’s Secret itself, their bralette collection drew in younger consumers which eventually lowered their average consumer age to 32. In essence, bralettes gobbled up sales from the brand’s main line of underwire bras.
However, brands such as Aerie and Adore Me have been flexing and strengthening their marketing wits even before the bralette trend began by shifting the focus of lingerie to an inclusive, comfortable, and everyday experience—they’ve probably recognized that women were beginning to want something more than just “sexy.”
Two of Victoria’s Secret biggest competitors are Aerie and Adore Me.
Aerie is the intimates apparel spinoff brand under American Eagle Outfitters. It positions itself as a fun, youthful brand that promotes body positivity, and this is highly evident in their #aeriereal campaign—a series of un-photoshopped ads that stands for real women, real bodies. On the other hand, there’s Adore Me which is all for inclusivity: they believe that lingerie should be for everyone, no matter what size they are. Their product sizes range from 30A to 46G without the hefty price tag.
Despite major turnarounds in the industry and within the company itself, Victoria’s Secret says “its best days are still ahead,” for bralettes are merely a trend and underwire bras are making a comeback. Coupled with this optimistic outlook is the brand’s strong conviction in their established hot pink image—the Angels are keeping those bombshell waves and bronzing powder.
However, with the steady growth of competitors such as Aerie and Adore Me, can Victoria’s Secret sustain sexy? We’ll have to wait and see what consumers think about that.