Victoria’s Secret, a member of the L Brands empire of consumer goods retailers around the world, will close 250 of its stores in the United States and Canada permanently amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company announced its decision on Thursday just one dat after reporting its first quarter earnings for 2020.
The pandemic brought with it an onslaught of changes for the retail industry, but Victoria’s Secret has been struggling for some time after it was hit with a major controversy back in the fall of 2018. The company’s Chief Marketing Officer at the time, Ed Razek, gave a controversial interview to Vogue Magazine just before the company’s annual Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. In the interview Razek claimed that the company does not hire trans or plus-sized models because the fashion show attempts to portray a “fantasy” that those bodies to not fall in line with.
Criticism toward the company came almost immediately after Vogue published the controversial interview, and consumers flocked to other companies like Savage X Fenty to buy products they once purchased from Victoria’s Secret. It wasn’t long before Victoria’s Secret’s sales fell so significantly that it would be forced to cancel the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show permanently from then on.
Later, in the summer of 2019, Razek was forced to step down from his position as the CMO of Victoria’s Secret, signaling a shift in how the company might hire its models in the future. Razek’s exit from the company meant that it would take its position as a household name seriously, shifting its branding to accommodate consumers that may not have felt seen in their brand up until then.
Not long after that, Victoria’s Secret revealed that it had cast its first openly transgender model in a campaign. Brazilian model Valentina Sampaio starred in her first campaign for the company in the fall of 2019, but critics were still wary that the company had ditched its toxic branding that quickly.
The company also revealed recently that it was planning to go private, a move that was quickly scrapped in recent weeks after the private equity firm that was set to take it over pulled out of the deal last minute.
L Brands revealed that its decision to close 250 retail locations across the United States and Canada is an effort to save the company amid the coronavirus pandemic. The company will also close 50 Bath & Body Works locations, another name under the L Brands umbrella. Assuming that things continue in the way they’ve gone thus far in 2020, L Brands expects that it will close more brick and mortar locations into 2021 and 2022 unless sales rise significantly.