Victoria’s Secret has been working to rebrand itself in recent months as the company has suffered a major decline over the last couple of years. The company hired its first openly transgender model, Valentina Sampaio, among other efforts to gain more notoriety as a diverse and accepting brand. Sales, however, have declined over the last year while other lingerie brands such as Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty have seen an explosive rise in that same time period. Even with new efforts and Ed Razek, the brand’s controversial Chief Marketing Officer, out of the picture, it’s unclear whether Victoria’s Secret will be able to prosper or suffer the fate of other brands that have fallen victim to the retail apocalypse.
Following nearly a year of controversy after Razek gave a controversial interview with Vogue, Victoria’s Secret is finally hoping to see a steady rise back to the top of the lingerie food chain. Critics and social media users responded to the interview, which earned the brand a reputation for being transphobic and catering too deeply to the male gaze, with contempt. Razek, who remarked that the company has not hired a trans or plus-sized model to walk in its annual fashion show because it did not fit the “fantasy” of Victoria’s Secret’s branding, was at the helm of the controversy. Razek has since left the company, and Victoria’s Secret has been working overtime to better its reputation among diverse consumers. An extensive advertising campaign launched during pride month was just the start, as the company soon announced that it would be hiring its first openly trans model and expanding its model-base into the plus-sized sphere.
Still, though, consumer trust in the brand was and continues to be low—especially now that the CEO of its parent company, L Brands’ Les Wexner—is being dragged into the middle of the Jeffrey Epstein legal saga. Victoria’s Secret has been slashing prices on its products around the country to entice consumers to return to the store as brands like Target Swimwear and Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty become the new swim and lingerie powerhouse brands, respectively. As sales have fallen in the last year—with Bath & Body Works nearly singlehandedly keeping L Brands afloat in the public market—Victoria’s Secret seems somewhat desperate to save face.
Swimwear Represents A Huge Loss For The Company
Victoria’s Secret announced that it would be leaving swimwear behind for good in 2016 as it expanded its presence in athleisure clothing. Critics at the time warned that the company would be leaving behind a lucrative market, as it had held a longstanding position as the biggest women’s swimwear retailer in the country. A sudden gap in that market paved the way for other brands to hone in, leaving Victoria’s Secret without a major source of its revenue. The criticisms proved to be the outcome of the move, and the unexpected fall in sales numbers after 2018’s Vogue interview controversy forced the company to face a harsh decision—returning to swimwear.
But the reality of returning to swimwear was far different than the idea, as the gap in the market opened the door for dozens of other companies to fill the void. Women faced a sudden problem in 2016 when they realized Victoria’s Secret held its position as the biggest swimwear retailer, and with little options to choose from many smaller, more affordable boutiques began making bigger sales numbers. Target, meanwhile, became one of the biggest swimsuit retailers in the country. Victoria’s Secret suffered significant sales declines in the immediate wake of the Vogue controversy, but Q2 sales numbers from L Brands revealed that it had not suffered a major loss later in the year. Still, it’s sales weren’t doing well.
With major price slashes and an entirely new marketing campaign dedicated to supporting a diverse cast of women, the brand hopes to see a rise in sales heading into the holiday season. In recent weeks, consumers have taken social media by storm to report record low prices on many of the company’s hot-ticket items like underwear and everyday bras. The company’s newly hired Lingerie CEO, John Mehas, reportedly told The Wall Street Journal that the company will be launching an advertising campaign meant to make women feel supported in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Ironic, considering L Brands’ CEO was just accused in court of having allegedly been involved in the Epstein sex trafficking ring.