Hey, remember when Ed Razek, the chief marketing executive for Victoria’s Secret gave a cringe-worthy interview to Vogue just before the annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show last year? During which he expressed that the brand has no interest in being inclusive of transgender people or larger sizes? Well, it seems as if the disturbing-yet-unsurprising comments have had a lasting negative impact on the company’s sales. After a terrible Christmas season, Victoria’s Secret announced this week that it will be closing 53 of its stores in 2019. The chain previously closed 30 of its stores in 2018.
Trouble didn’t start for Victoria’s Secret when Razek made problematic comments to Vogue. The brand had been going downhill for quite some time already, but the Vogue interview solidified what people expected—that Victoria’s Secret was only made for one very specific idea of what a woman looked like. Since the Vogue interview went live, though, the company has struggled to maintain sales and earn back its decent reputation. In the #MeToo era, brands will have to change and adapt in order to survive. Victoria’s Secret can’t just sell one idea—the heternormative, patriarchal construct of what it means to be sexy—and think it will be successful.
Gone are the days when all women want is a pair of sparkly underwear and a lacy push-up bra. Consumer trends show that most women are, instead, opting for comfortable alternatives that come from companies with a more body-positive image. Companies like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty, American Eagle’s Aerie line, and ThirdLove are among a few. These brands have gained massive attention in recent years for their focus on functionality rather than appealing to the male gaze.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret has plunged from its record high sales in 2015. The parent company, L Brands, reported that a record-low holiday season put the final nail in the coffin on 53 more brick and mortar stores for 2019. The company reported that the fiscal sales for the fourth quarter of 2018 dropped as much as 3% despite the holiday shopping season. The lingerie-giant has been working hard to make ends meet, but not even price slashing and massive sales could move the unsold product piling up in the stores.
Victoria’s Secret has had to massively scale back its product catalog in recent months to accommodate the sales decline. In 2016, L Brands announced that Victoria’s Secret would no longer be selling swimwear, opting instead to focus on athletic wear and lingerie. That decision didn’t last long, as Victoria’s Secret announced just a few weeks ago that it would be slowly integrating swimwear back into its brand, both online and in-store. Swimwear was one of its most profitable products. The retail giant previously dominated the swimwear industry, but since it stopped selling the product other companies like Target have moved into the number 1 spot. It will be hard for Victoria’s Secret to earn back that title.
Victoria’s Secret will close 53 stores in 2019. It may be the most well-known lingerie brand in the country, but that clearly doesn’t mean much anymore.