There is probably no person on this earth, man or woman, who has never heard of Victoria’s Secret. Owned by L. Brands, this company has been selling sexy lingerie (and not only) to its customers since 1977 – and it made many people happy. After all, this brand helped them feel sexier – and less boring in the bedroom.
That being said, Victoria’s Secret still tries to sell sexy – but it seems that it is no longer really working. Sales have been dropping dramatically since 2018 – and in 2019, things have only gotten worse. During the holidays of 2018, when sales would usually be skyrocketing, Victoria’s Secret agents noticed an irregularity: people were no longer buying sexy.
So, the announcement that Victoria’s Secret will close 53 stores in 2019 did not come as much of a surprise to most individuals. Some people were indeed shocked – but others saw this coming. Will Victoria’s Secret actually be able to recover from this if they put their mind to it? We’re not sure – but we can still learn from their failures. Let’s take a closer look at what happened.
The Reason for the Sudden Drop in Sales
When Victoria’s Secret first came on the market, it brought the prospect of sexy nightwear and underwear in a time when ugly, flowery nightgowns would dominate the market. Women who had confidence in their bodies would buy the lingerie and they would definitely feel even more attractive.
The problem here was that times change – and this applies to the fashion industry as well. Nowadays, body positivity is gaining more and more attention, and many fashion companies are launching campaigns in which they show support for every body type. For instance, brands such as Aerie from American Eagle received a lot of success and good feedback after introducing plus-size products and advertising them using real pictures. Airbrushed pictures are out of the question – which is why the brand saw a lot of success over the last few years.
However, Victoria’s Secret did not adapt to this change. Most of their products are still in average-sized dimensions – and they are marketed for those that are quite slim. This received a lot of critique from customers looking for plus-sized dimensions – and in the end, people have been going to other stores to find products that would fit their body type.
Victoria’s Secret came under even more fire after their runway in November 2018, when Ed Razek (their chief marketing officer) gave Vogue an interview. During this conversation, he made a few controversial comments regarding transsexual and plus-sized models, and their appearance on the show – or rather, their lack thereof. This led to great outrage in the online world, which caused their already poor sales to drop even more. This also applies to Victoria’s Secret sister brand, Pink, which is going through the same struggles.
Plus, as market researcher Pamela N. Danziger claims in an article written for Forbes, people are now looking for comfort rather than sex appeal. This is likely one of the main reasons why the sales also dropped, aside from the lack of plus-sized lingerie. The bras made by the brand are mostly for the men to look at – and not for women to wear. They are overly sexualized, something that has caused quite a fair amount of controversy among women of all ages.
Last but not least, the fact that the brand is too expensive for some women certainly did not help their cause. Considering that they mostly offer products catering to a certain body type, their prices are quite high – particularly since you can find similar products at better prices in places such as Target. These brands are also a more convenient choice for women, as they can find the products in different sizes as well.
The Decision to Close the Shops
The decision to close the shops came as a result of the sales dropping. In 2018, around 30 Victoria’s Secret stores have closed – and to this, we add 56 that they are planning to close this year. Their sales are no longer keeping up with the costs of maintaining all these shops open – which is what prompted them to close them in the first place.
As Danziger mentioned, in order for a retail store to survive, the key is to listen to the voices of the people – to pay attention to their interaction. In the case of lingerie stores, they would have to listen to the sensibilities of women and see what they want in regard to intimate apparel.
According to consumers, this was not the case of Victoria’s Secret. The brand saw the “decline in performance,” as they cited it, and they expressed it as the reason for closing the stores. Their 3% sales drop during the holiday season confirmed that this was a necessary step.
Which Stores Are They Closing?
At this point, Victoria’s Secret has declined to offer a full list of the stores that they are closing. However, they confirmed that they have planned closure to some local media outlets in North America and that they have already begun shutting down some of the stores.
So far, stores have been closed in Washington DC, Florida, Iowa, New York, South California, and many more. These stores are among the smaller ones that brought less profit over the years – particularly after the recent drop.
The Current Status: Are They Going Bankrupt?
At this point, one could not say that Victoria’s Secret has gone bankrupt – although reports say that it is on the verge of it. This company that once was a bestseller is certainly going through a hard time – and with 56 more stores closing in North America, we cannot be exactly sure of their fate.
However, there are great risks of bankruptcy. As things are looking right now, the company is likely to file bankruptcy in less than four years. Sales have dropped too much – particularly during the holidays. Even with the Semi-Annual Clearance events, there hasn’t been much improvement for the company – which doesn’t bide well for them.
Certain changes in the marketing strategy might actually help the company to get back on its feet. Still, considering the black spot on their image that the company recently received, it might be a bumpy ride.
To Conclude: The Lessons to Remember from This Failure
If there’s one thing that we have to remember for their failure, it’s that the consumers are our masters and that we must follow their wishes. By catering to only a certain category of women, Victoria’s Secret limited its consumers – who are now looking for more accessible products somewhere else.
What have we learned from this? That keeping up with the trends is crucial when it comes to sales – and this does not only apply to styles of clothing. With today’s campaigns for body positivity, more and more companies are growing more successful by bringing the consumers what they want: comfortable intimate apparel that is available in all sizes, for various types of people. Diversity is the key – and the lack of it is generally frowned upon.
It is difficult to say what will happen to Victoria’s Secret after this – but at least we know what went wrong. People wanted more diversity, while Victoria’ Secret stuck to the “recipe” that brought them success in the past. Perhaps, this might be a way to protect their consistency – but at the same time, it might be a sign that adjusting to the current times is not a bad idea. This type of failure taught us that keeping up with the times and popular opinion is the key to success.