Victoria’s Secret hopes to prove ‘sexiness can be inclusive’ in brand overhaul

Victoria’s Secret hopes to prove ‘sexiness can be inclusive’ in brand overhaul

Another brand overhaul is underway at Victoria’s Secret, with the American lingerie chain apparently looking to re-embrace “sexiness” after its short-lived feminist makeover failed to boost sales.

During a presentation last week, a top executive said Victoria’s Secret would be the subject of an image overhaul, adding “sexiness can be inclusive”.

“Sexiness can celebrate the diverse experiences of our customers and that’s what we’re focused on,” Greg Unis, brand president of the company’s youth-focused venture Victoria’s Secret & Pink, told investors on Thursday (13 October).

The reboot is part of a larger strategy to revive its sales after a five-year marketing overhaul fell short of expectations. According to the Business of Fashion, Victoria’s Secret is projecting $6.2bn in earnings this fiscal year – a five per cent drop on sales in 2022, and well below the $7.4bn sales reported in 2018.

Now, Victoria’s Secret has laid out a roadmap to bolstering its revenue, including cost-cutting, reviving its swimwear and activewear ranges, and further expanding its offerings to include products such as sweaters, slip dresses, and corsets.

Giving its stores a more “welcoming” facelift is also part of the plan. Chief executive Martin Waters added that the retailer’s inclusivity initiatives and campaigns had “not been enough to carry the day”, referring to the company’s performance in recent years.

Once the purveyors of Swarovski-studded undergarments and unrealistic body standards, Victoria’s Secret has, in recent years, embarked on a journey to shed its hyper-sexualised image and pay attention to changing social norms.

Its initial attempt to adjust its image came hot on the heels of declining sales due to the emergence of inclusive and diversity-friendly brands such as Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty and Third Love, as well as several controversies including top management at L Brands – the former parent company of Victoria’s Secret.

Ming Xi, Grace Elizabeth, Cindy Bruna, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Alexina Graham at the Victoria’s Secret show in 2018

(Getty Images for Victoria’s Secr)

In 2018, L Brands’ then-marketing boss Ed Razek sparked a backlash when he declared that Victoria’s Secret would never cast transgender and plus-size models in its annual Fashion show because it’s a “fantasy”.

Razek resigned the following year after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour with models – allegations he called “categorically untrue, misconstrued or taken out of context”.

Around the same time, an investigation by The New York Times uncovered ties between L Brands’ former chief executive Lex Werne and convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, which further sullied the reputation of Victoria’s Secret,

In an effort to rehabilitate its image, the brand’s recent campaigns have featuring stars such as former US women’s football captain Megan Rapinoe, plus-size models Paloma Elsesser and Ali Tate-Cutler, and Brazillian transgender model Valentina Sampaio.

Last month, Victoria’s Secret: The Tour ‘23 was released on Amazon Prime, with the company declaring the televised catwalk event was the “ultimate expression” of its commitment to a new Victoria’s Secret that’s more in step with the times.

Despite its struggles, Victoria’s Secret still owns a lion’s share of the north American market today.

“We’ve been insufficiently differentiated in this difficult market,” Waters said, during the meeting last Thursday. “[But] our ambition of being the world’s leading fashion retailer of intimates apparel is unchanged.”

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