We visited a Victoria’s Secret flagship store and saw how it’s trying to win back customers by turning up the lights and toning down risque marketing

Victoria's Secret store Bond Street
Victoria’s Secret’s new marketing campaign.

  • Victoria’s Secret is in the process of refreshing its entire store fleet.
  • It’s promising to turn up the lights and replace its bubblegum pink interiors.
  • We visited its London flagship to see how different it is to shop in its stores today.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
We headed to Victoria’s Secret’s flagship store in London on a sunny afternoon.

Victoria's Secret store Bond Street
The store opened in 2012.

It’s located on New Bond Street, one of the more upscale shopping areas in London.

The most immediate difference we noticed was the marketing in its store windows.

Victoria's Secret store Bond Street
The store windows looked very different.

In the past, these would have shown racy images of its Angels. But with the Angels brand behind them, these were swapped out for more body-positive campaigns where the focus is on a day-to-day, toned-down look of underwear.

The store seemed radically different when we walked in. Previously, the lights were dimmed, music was booming, and images of its Angels (that have been described as borderline pornographic by some shoppers) covered the walls.

Victoria's Secret store Bond Street
Victoria’s Secret’s new marketing campaign.

On this visit, it instantly felt more modern and light inside. 

Source: Insider.

But as we headed deeper inside the ground floor area, it felt a lot more similar to the old Victoria’s Secret than we had first thought.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
The ground floor area.

The lights may have been turned up but its signature pink, black, and white interior remained…

Victoria's Secret Bond Street
Boudoir-like displays.

A spokesperson for Victoria’s Secret told Insider that it plans to completely redo all its stores eventually. For the moment, some stores will only have more minor aesthetic changes.

…as did its boudoir-like fitting rooms.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Fitting room.

While we weren’t expecting the interior to be completely redone, we were expecting to see the more toned-down lingerie that appeared in the windows to be front and center of the store.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Victoria’s Secret’s “Very Sexy” collection.

Instead, it put its most risque lingerie near the entrance, including its “Very Sexy,” “Luxe,” and “Dream Angels” collections.

It might have abandoned the Angels and its racy marketing but it felt like it’s not quite ready for the product to match that. 

Its signature push-up bras were in prime position but plus-size mannequins, maternity bras, and more casual underwear were nowhere to be seen.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Push-up bras.

As we headed to the staircase at the back of the store we noticed a major change.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street
A giant silver staircase is a prominent feature in its store.

In the past, videos of its Angels walking its annual runway show would have run on a loop on the screens behind the staircase. When we visited, these videos had been swapped out for shots featuring curvier women. 

As we headed up to the next floor, we were immediately greeted by a stand showcasing one of its partnerships with a British lingerie brand.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Victoria’s Secret launched a partnership with Bluebella in 2019.

The brand on display, Bluebella, was outspoken about the lack of inclusivity in the lingerie world before it partnered up with Victoria’s Secret. The tagline of its new collection for Victoria’s Secret is: “Lingerie designed for women who buy lingerie to please themselves.”

This was our first glimpse of its swimwear collection.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Victoria’s Secret swimwear collection.

Victoria’s Secret scrapped swimwear along with some of its apparel offerings in order to focus on underwear in April 2016. It brought this back in 2018.

This area of the store was dedicated to its more laid-back styles, including athleisurewear.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Leggings for sale.

Victoria’s Secret has been criticized for being slow to get on the athleticwear trend. One former senior staffer previously told Insider that former leaders felt “sweat is only sexy when you’re having sex” and avoided sports bras because of this. 

This week, it launched its new Lululemon-esque gymwear collection, “On Point,” which is not yet available for sale in the UK.

We were surprised to see that there wasn’t a bigger focus on these casual styles at the entrance of the store. 

We found a mix of sports bras and casual T-shirt bra styles here.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street
New marketing appeared here too.

Next, we headed down to the bottom, and final, floor of the store.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store

This sprawling section is devoted it its Pink brand, which is targeted at college-age and teen customers.

This was the first time we spotted its new fuller-sized, mannequins. Victoria’s Secret is promising to bring these to all of its stores.

 

While analysts have praised the mannequins as a more inclusive move, some shoppers say it’s still falling short by not offering enough extended sizes.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Fuller-sized mannequins.

“If I’m a size 14, which is on the smaller end of the plus-size range, and the largest panties Victoria’s Secret makes are uncomfortably tight on me, I think about the 50% or more of women who are still unable to wear the brand,” writer Mandy Shunnarah said after visiting Victoria’s Secret’s pilot store in Columbus. 

Victoria’s Secret said it offers up to a size 20, though not in all styles. 

The Pink brand was once the strongest part of Victoria’s Secret’s portfolio from a sales perspective. But around 2018, sales slipped at the brand and it was forced to lean on heavy discounting to shift stock.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
The sale section.

While we still spotted a discount section at Pink, there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of product on sale.

 

At that time, other teen-focused brands such as American Eagle’s Aerie started to take market share with more inclusive marketing and body-positive campaigns that resonated with young shoppers.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Victoria’s Secret Bond Street store

Pink is clearly doubling down on this now. Videos promoting its campaigns around diversity and inclusion were playing in the background of the cash register for customers to watch while they check out their shopping. 

Pink is known for being a logo-heavy brand, something that analysts have said can be detrimental. If a brand stops being seen as trendy, shoppers no longer see the value in their logos and they spend elsewhere, for example.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Pink logos.

According to Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters, Pink has seen “super strong” performance for its logo business in the first three months of the year, however.

 

 

Waters said tie-dye apparel was a big seller for the brand too. This was tactically positioned right at the front of the Pink store.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Tie-die is having a moment in fashion.

But bras and panties are still its bread and butter and there was a ton on display. More casual styles such as bralettes still had the Victoria’s Secret spin, however, with the extra push-up.

Victoria's Secret Bond Street store
Pink bralettes.

While the store shopping experience does feel different, the company has a way to go to convince critics that its rebrand is more than just a glossy marketing campaign.

This means putting plus-size mannequins in all areas of the store and giving the lingerie that appears in its new more inclusive marketing campaigns a prime position in store.

 

 

 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret parent will spend $90 million on anti-sexual harassment and diversity plans, after shareholders said former leaders created a ‘culture of misogyny, bullying and harassment’

victoria's secret ed razek
Former L Brands CMO Ed Razek.

  • L Brands said it will spend $90 million on anti-sexual harassment and inclusion measures.
  • This is in response to shareholder lawsuits filed against former execs.
  • These suits allege that leaders Les Wexner and Ed Razek “enabled L Brands to develop a hostile abusive environment.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands said Friday it will spend $90 million beefing up the process to report and investigate sexual harassment cases and improve diversity and inclusion governance.

The news comes after shareholders sued longtime execs over its alleged “entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment.”

Two shareholders filed lawsuits after a New York Times investigation in 2020 found a culture “of misogyny, bullying, and harassment” at the brand, which former longtime L Brands marketing chief Ed Razek and former CEO Les Wexner were accused of creating.

L Brands was named as a nominal defendant in these lawsuits.

Read more: Former Victoria’s Secret execs say their ideas for new products were ignored for years and former CEO Les Wexner told them he was ‘the only one who understands what women really want’

In one lawsuit filed in June 2020, shareholder Milton Rudi sued Wexner and Razek, alleging that they had “allowed and enabled L Brands to develop a hostile abusive environment rife with sexual harassment” which ultimately, “irreparably harmed” the company.

In another suit, filed in a Delaware court in January this year, shareholder Nancy Lambrecht sued Wexner, Razek, and other senior-level employees for Victoria’s Secret’s “entrenched culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment, as well as ties to Jeffrey Epstein and other egregious mismanagement.”

Insider reached out to the plaintiff’s lawyers but did not immediately hear back.

L Brands did not confirm whether the case against Wexner, Razek, and other execs had been settled. However, it said that its move to strengthen corporate governance is the “full and final resolution” from the company’s perspective.

“This global resolution, with its commitment to industry-leading governance policies, is an overwhelmingly positive result for the Company and its stockholders,” Sarah Nash, chair of the board, said Friday.

L Brands has committed to spending $45 million over five years at each Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works to fund its governance policies. L Brands will be split in two next month; Victoria’s Secret will become its own public company.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret reveals gymwear collection, cashing in on a booming market that former staffers say it neglected for years because it felt ‘sweat is only sexy when you’re having sex’

Victoria's Secret new on point collection
  • Victoria’s Secret launched a new gymwear collection this week, featuring leggings and sports bras.
  • It’s part of the brand’s turnaround effort, during which it has also ditched its iconic Angels.
  • Former staffers said the old management team refused to sell sports bras, which were deemed unsexy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Victoria’s Secret launched a new collection of gymwear this week, signaling it wants to take on Lululmeon and cash in on a booming market that former staffers say it neglected for years.

The new collection, called “On Point,” is modeled by one of the brand’s new spokeswomen, Olympic skier Eileen Gu.

It comprises a mix of leggings, sports bras, and other clothing in three different fits and fabrics. Victoria’s Secret said each fit is tailored to a specific activity: one for running errands, one for yoga, and one for high-intensity workouts.

Its “sweat” leggings, recommended for high-intensity sports, cost $60, while sports bras across the collection cost between $40 to $50.

A post shared by Victoria’s Secret (@victoriassecret)

The push into gymwear is a major shift in strategy for the lingerie giant, and is part of its turnaround effort under a new management team.

It ditched its iconic Angels earlier this year, saying they were no longer “culturally relevant.” At the time, it said that it would partner with activists and entrepreneurs for its new image.

Read more: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 Victoria’s Secret executives helping the company shake off years of scandal and slumping sales

In recent interviews with Insider, former longtime senior employees said that under the leadership of former L Brands CEO Les Wexner, and CMO Ed Razek, the company had missed key market opportunities – including athletic wear.

“If it wasn’t a push-your-boobs-up-to-your-chin bra, they didn’t want anything to do with it,” one woman who worked in a management role at Victoria’s Secret’s New York office for more than 12 years told Insider.

“To them, sweat is only sexy when you’re having sex,” she said of their refusal to sell sports bras.

This potentially cost the company market share as brands such as Lululemon and American Eagle’s Aerie grew in popularity. Victoria’s Secret’s market share dropped from 33% to 24% between 2016 and 2018.

The founder of Lululemon, Chip Wilson, revealed in his book about the story of Lululemon, “Little Black Stretch Pants,” that Victoria’s Secret once made an offer to buy his brand in the early 2000s.

“We were flattered, but it didn’t take us long to agree that wasn’t a direction we wanted to go,” he wrote in his book.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret will relaunch its annual fashion show – without its Angels

2018 victorias secret fashion show models
Victoria’s Secret 2018 show.

  • Victoria’s Secret says it will bring back its annual runway show, but hasn’t set a date.
  • The brand canceled its runway show in 2019, promising to rethink the business.
  • Victoria’s Secret ditched its Angels in June, saying the concept was not “culturally relevant.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Victoria’s Secret plans to revive its annual runway show in the future – only without its Angels this time.

Victoria’s Secret canceled its runway show in November 2019, 24 years after it launched in 1995. Les Wexner, then CEO of parent company L Brands, said at the time that the company didn’t think “network television is the right fit” for the show and that it was rethinking “literally everything” about the business.

In a presentation to investors on Monday, Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters said the company’s “intent is to get back into the fashion show business” in the future, CNBC reported. He didn’t give a timeline.

“We’re not in a hurry to announce when that will be or how that will be … but we will redefine it in a way that’s culturally relevant in the coming years,” he said, according to CNBC.

The fashion show, which famously featured Victoria’s Secret top models, the Angels, saw its ratings decline in the years running up to its cancellation.

The company ditched its Angels for good in June, and is promising to focus more on inclusivity and diversity.

Read more: Victoria’s Secret’s new CMO on how the brand’s radically different new image will help it win back disillusioned shoppers

In its heyday in the late 90s and early to mid-2000s, the event attracted millions of viewers. The show, and the costumes, became more elaborate as the years went on.

Ed Razek, the brains behind the show and L Brands’ marketing chief, was considered one of the most influential people in modeling throughout the early 2000s, and helped launch the careers of household names such as Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum.

Razek later stepped down. He and Wexner were accused of creating a “culture of misogyny, bullying, and harassment,” according to a report in The New York Times.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret is working with former Angels even as it drops scantily dressed models for activists and entrepreneurs

Victoria's Secret ditches its Angels
Angels at the Victoria’s Secret runway show in 2018.

  • Victoria’s Secret will keep working with some former Angels, its new creative director told the New York Post.
  • It’s abandoned the Angels concept but some former Angels will still model for the brand.
  • Victoria’s Secret is in the middle of a major rebrand after years of struggle.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Victoria’s Secret will continue to work with former Angels even after it abandoned the concept last month, its new creative director has said.

In an interview with The New York Post, Raúl Martinez said: “The word Angel is retired but that doesn’t mean the women we worked with as Angels are retired.”

Martinez told the Post that at least three former Angels will continue to model for the brand, including 25-year-old Taylor Hill, 24-year-old Grace Elisabeth, and 52-year-old Helena Christensen.

Victoria’s Secret announced in June that it was scrapping its Angel brand because it was no longer “culturally relevant.” It said that instead, a group of seven activist and entrepreneurial women – including Indian actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas and the professional soccer player and gender-equality activist Megan Rapinoe – would become spokeswomen for the brand.

This announcement was part of the brand’s major overhaul under a new management team.

Read more: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 Victoria’s Secret executives helping the company shake off years of scandal and slumping sales

Martinez took on the position of creative director at the start of the year and has been tasked with bringing the brand to life visually. He works closely with the design and marketing teams and has the final say over anything from what photographers Victoria’s Secret hires to shoot campaigns, to what fonts it uses in its ads.

The name Angel was first coined in 1999, when models Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Daniela Peštová, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks appeared in an ad to promote the Angels underwear collection.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Angels and the annual Victoria’s Secret runway show had a powerful role in defining “sexy” in the modern day. More recently, it has been criticized as outdated and out-of-touch.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret billionaire Les Wexner is on track to sell $1.2 billion of company stock this year as he retreats from the lingerie business

Les Wexner
Les Wexner.

  • Les Wexner is on track to sell $1.2 billion of Victoria’s Secret stock this year.
  • This leaves the Wexner family with around a 10% stake in the business.
  • Wexner stepped down as CEO in 2020 shortly after controversy over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Les Wexner, the billionaire businessman behind Victoria’s Secret, is on track to sell $1.2 billion worth of company stock this year.

Wexner, who stepped down as CEO of its parent company L Brands in February 2020 and from its board in March, has been selling large chunks of stock over the past few months – most recently, $745 million-worth.

Wexner and his wife Abigail are among the company’s largest shareholders. According to Bloomberg, this latest sale would leave them with around a 10% stake in the company.

Up until he stepped down last year, Wexner was the longest-serving CEO of any Fortune 500 company. He was credited with transforming Victoria’s Secret into a global powerhouse.

Read more: POWER PLAYERS: Meet the 8 Victoria’s Secret executives helping the company shake off years of scandal and slumping sales

Toward the end of his tenure, Wall Street grew critical of his leadership as sales had slowed and critics said Victoria’s Secret’s brand image was out-of-date.

Activist shareholder Barington Capital wrote a public letter to Wexner in 2019 urging him to address the brand image issues and switch up its predominantly male board of directors.

Wexner stepped down as CEO and chairman the company 2020. At the time, his relationship with disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein had come under intense scrutiny. Epstein managed Wexner’s money and the two were close friends for several years.

“At some point in your life we are all betrayed by friends,” Wexner said in a statement at the time. “Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to.”

Victoria’s Secret is currently in the midst of a major turnaround effort under new leadership.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret ditched its Angels after a successful decades-long partnership. Take a closer look at how the concept was born – and why the lingerie chain thinks Angels are no longer relevant.

Victoria's Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio
Alessandra Ambrosio walks the runway during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show in Shanghai.

  • Victoria’s Secret Angels have been synonymous with the lingerie brand for decades.
  • However, as part of an extreme brand turnaround, the lingerie label is bidding them farewell.
  • But how did Angels come about? Insider tapped into the history of the tradition since its inception.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
This month, after nearly two decades, Victoria’s Secret confirmed that it is ending its Angels brand.

miranda kerr victoria's secret fashion show 2012
Victoria’s Secret Angel Miranda Kerr walks the runway during the 2012 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory on November 7, 2012 in New York City.

Its CEO Martin Waters said that the Angels were no longer “culturally relevant” and would not be a part of the brand as it undergoes a major turnaround effort.

Instead, it has taken on a group of seven new spokeswomen – a mix of activists and entrepreneurs to promote its new image.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

This includes actress and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra Jonas and soccer player and gender-equality activist Megan Rapinoe. 

Read more: Victoria’s Secret’s new CMO on how the brand’s radically different new image will help it win back disillusioned shoppers

So how did the concept of an Angel first come about and why is it being abandoned?

Victoria's Secret old
Victoria’s Secret’s first Angels.

Models Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Daniela Peštová, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks were the first Angels.

The name was coined in 1997 after they appeared in an ad to promote Victoria’s Secret’s “Angels” underwear collection.

From then on, the Angels became an elite group of models that were carefully selected to become the face and voice of the brand.

Victoria's Secret old

Since the late 1990s, these Angels have become one of the most well-known parts of the brand.

Though there have been hundreds of Victoria’s Secret models over the years, many of which have walked its runway show, not all have made it to the elite status of an Angel.

Victoria's Secret Angels
Victoria’s Secret Launches “Angels 2000” Bra. Daniela Pestova, Stephanie Seymour, Karen Mulder, Ines Rivero.

Through their contracts with Victoria’s Secret, they were required to be featured in campaigns, talk shows, and runway events.

Victoria’s Secret was previously vague about how their contracts worked and what they are actually expected to do.

Elsa Hosk, a former Victoria's Secret Angel
Elsa Hosk wears The 2018 Dream Angels Fantasy Bra at The Plaza Hotel Palm Court on November 5, 2018, in New York City.

But reports indicate that being an Angel requires a big commitment of time and responsibility.

“Becoming an Angel means you are officially part of the family of Victoria’s Secret,” Elsa Hosk said in an All-Access video back in 2015

“You are a spokesperson for the whole brand, and that is such a cool thing because it’s one of the biggest, most amazing brands in the world,” she said. 

Angels get to go home with multi-million dollar pay cheques.

Adriana Lima
Adriana Lima.

Although it is unclear how much angels are paid year on year, many were among some of the world’s highest-paid models. As previously reported by Insider, 11 of the 17 women on Forbes’ list for The Highest Paid Models 2016 have been Victoria’s Secret Angels. 

World-famous models including Gisele Bündchen and Adriana Lima, who hold a superior status with the brand, have finished years with multi-million-dollar salaries, per Insider. In 2018, Bündchen earned $30.5 million and Lima $10.5 million, but other Angels, including Taylor Hill and Jasmine Tookes took home $4 million. 

 

But the level of commitment has meant that Victoria’s Secret has lost Angels in the past.

Karlie Kloss, during her time as a Victoria's Secret Angel
Karlie Kloss pictured (R).

As previously reported by Insider, Doutzen Kroes and Karlie Kloss both pulled out of contracts early to focus on other commitments.

Sources highlighted to Page Six that relatively little pay over time was also a factor in Angels’ decision to depart. “Older contracts like Alessandra Ambrosio used to be in the millions, now they’re like $100,000,” a source told the outlet. 

There have been 41 Angels in total since 1997 when Christensen, Mulder, Peštová, Seymour, and Banks were first taken on.

Tyra Banks
Tyra Banks walks the runway at The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at the 69th Regiment Armory November 9, 2005 in New York.

Banks was the first black model to become an Angel.

Over the years, these women became a defining part of its increasingly elaborate runway shows and risque brand image.

Gisele Bundchen at the 1999 Victoria's Secret Fashion show
Gisele Bündchen walks the runway at the 1999 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show.

In 1999, its annual fashion show aired for the first time online and was described as the internet-breaking moment of that time after 1.5 million people tried to tune in and crashed the site.

The year after that, Angel Gisele Bündchen walked the runway in what was then the most expensive item of lingerie ever created, a $15 million diamond-and-ruby-encrusted ‘Fantasy Bra.’

Gisele Bundchen wearing the $15 million Victoria's Secret 'Fantasy Bra'
Gisele Bündchen.

The tradition to wear a “Fantasy Bra” at every runway show came about in 1996 when Claudia Schiffer wore a diamond-encrusted bra that cost $1 million. 

The shows became more lavish over the years.

Taylor Swift performs at the Victoria's Secret fashion show in 2014
Taylor Swift performs at Victoria’s Secret fashion show in 2014.

From popular musical acts including Taylor Swift and Kanye West, elaborate costumes and historical venues, to models sporting ornamental Angel “wings,” that can take up to 400 hours of labor, down the runway, the shows became a yearly attraction for many.

Carrying the wings was no easy feat.

Victoria's Secret Angel Alessandra Ambrosio
Alessandra Ambrosio walks the runway during the 2017 Victoria’s Secret Fashion show in Shanghai.

One year, Angel Alessandra Ambrosio revealed in an interview on “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” that she wore one of the heaviest pairs of wings in history in 2011, weighing around 60 pounds, per Insider

Some of the world’s top supermodels including Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner were among the catwalk’s line-up but never made it to Angel status.

Kendall Jenner walks the runway at the 2018 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show
Kendall Jenner walks the runway at the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

Between 2016 and 2018, Victoria’s started to lose market share and its racy brand image. Angels were viewed as being increasingly out-of-touch and out of date in the wake of the #MeToo movement.

This came to a head in 2018, just weeks before its annual fashion show was due to air on television.

Ed Razek
Ed Razek.

Ed Razek, the marketing chief and brains behind the show, caused a backlash after he made controversial comments about plus-size and transgender models in an interview with Vogue.

Read morePeople slammed Victoria’s Secret after its marketing chief made controversial comments about transgender models, but he didn’t resign. This could be why, according to former executives.

When the show aired on TV, viewership numbers sank by 34%.

victoria's secret ed razek
Razek speaks to the 2018 Victoria’s Secret runway models backstage during the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

The year after, for the first time since it launched in 1995, the show was canceled just after Razek left the company.

The Angels stayed on and in early 2019, a new Angel was announced – Barbara Palvin.

Barbara Palvin
Barbara Palvin.

At the time, fans praised Victoria’s Secret for selecting a more body-positive model, though she wasn’t plus size.

Over the course of 2020, the company underwent some major changes.

Les Wexner

Its longtime leader Les Wexner stepped down and it began the hiring of a brand new executive team. This included a new marketing head and creative director.

And under new leadership, the brand is refocusing its image.

Victoria's Secret
A Victoria’s Secret store in the UK.

“We’re moving from what men want to what women want,” CEO Waters said about the company’s repositioning, in a recent earnings call. “From sexy for a few to sexy for all.”

“It’s about including most women rather than excluding most women and being grounded in real life, rather than mostly unattainable,” he said.

And that apparently means no Angels. 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Amazon isn’t alone in reportedly destroying unsold goods. Nike, Burberry, H&M and others have also come under fire for torching their own products.

Burberry show
Models showcase Burberry’s latest designs during London Fashion Week February 2020.

Amazon is not the only company that has been reportedly destroying unsold goods.

Amazon came under fire this week after a former employee told ITV, a British news channel, that employees at a warehouse in Scotland were instructed to destroy 130,000 unsold and returned items in just one week – totalling more than a million items per year.

But Amazon is far from the only offender.

Brands including Burberry, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Nike, JCPenney, Michael Kors, Eddie Bauer, and Victoria’s Secret have all been accused of doing the same, according to various reports in recent years.

Burberry came clean about burning clothes and said it “used specialist incinerators that harness energy from the process.” The destroyed goods totaled about $37 million, compared to Burberry’s revenue of $3.8 billion that year.

“Burberry has insisted it’s recycling the clothing into energy, except the energy that is recouped from burning clothing doesn’t come anywhere near the energy that was used to create the garments,” Timo Rissanen, an associate dean at Parsons School of Design and a professor of fashion design and sustainability told Vox in a 2018 interview.

The amount of garments that people have been buying annually has been steadily increasing since the early 2000’s. Insider previously reported that the fashion industry makes up “10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, dries up water sources, and pollutes river streams.”

Chanel and Louis Vuitton have also participated in the burning of merchandise. Richemont, the Swiss company behind brands like Cartier and Montblanc, said in 2018 it had destroyed more than $500 million worth of watches to keep them out of the hands of resellers.

In response to ITV’s reporting, an Amazon spokesperson told Insider that no clothes were sent to landfills, but “as a last resort,” some may be sent to “energy recovery.”

“We’re working hard to drive the number of times this happens down to zero,” Amazon said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The rise, fall, and comeback of Victoria’s Secret, America’s biggest lingerie retailer

victoria's secret
  • Victoria’s Secret is the largest lingerie retailer in the US, and has been for several decades.
  • It achieved explosive success in the late 1990s and 2000s but has been accused of losing relevance in recent years.
  • The company is currently overhauling its brand image, and has abandoned its Angels for activists and entrepreneurs.
  • Here’s the story of the rise, fall, and subsequent comeback of the brand.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Victoria’s Secret was founded in 1977 by American businessman Roy Raymond.

roy raymond
Roy Raymond (left).

Inspired by an uncomfortable trip to a department store to buy underwear for his wife, Raymond set out to create a place where men would feel comfortable shopping for lingerie. He wanted to create a women’s underwear shop that was targeted at men.  

He named the brand after the Victorian era in England, wanting to evoke the refinement of this period in his lingerie.

Victoria Secret vintage catalog 1982

His vision was summed up by Slate’s Naomi Barr in 2013: “Raymond imagined a Victorian boudoir, replete with dark wood, oriental rugs, and silk drapery. He chose the name ‘Victoria’ to evoke the propriety and respectability associated with the Victorian era; outwardly refined, Victoria’s ‘secrets’ were hidden beneath.”

He went on to open a handful of Victoria’s Secret stores and launched its famous catalog. 

By 1982, the company was making more than $4 million in annual sales, but according to reports, it was nearing bankruptcy at the time. It was at this point that Les Wexner swooped in.

Les Wexner
Les Wexner (center).

Wexner, who founded L Brands (formerly Limited Brands) was already making a name for himself in the retail world as he gradually built up an impressive empire.

By June 1982, Limited — which had previously acquired Express and Lane Bryant — was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. One month later, under Wexner’s leadership, the company acquired Victoria’s Secret’s six stores and its catalog for $1 million. 

Wexner turned Raymond’s vision on its head, creating a store that was focused on women rather than men.

Les Wexner

He was closely following the European lingerie market of that time and wanted to bring this aesthetic to the US. So, he set out to create a more affordable version of European upscale brand “La Perla” — lingerie that looked luxurious and expensive but was affordable.  

And it worked. By the early 1990s, Victoria’s Secret had become the largest lingerie retailer in the US, with 350 stores nationally and sales topping $1 billion.

Victoria's Secret runway show
Victoria’s Secret spring lingerie collection in New York Tuesday, February 6, 1996.

Source: The Telegraph

The brand began to cement its image over the next few years. In 1995, its famous annual fashion show was born.

Ed Razek
Ed Razek.

The show, which was run by Ed Razek (longtime chief marketing officer of L Brands), became an iconic part of the brand’s image. 

Razek and his team were responsible for hand-picking the models to walk the show. Because of this, he became one of the most important people in the modeling world, helping to launch the careers of Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum.

 

In 1999, the show aired for the first time online. Time described it as the “internet-breaking moment” of this era after 1.5 million viewers tried to tune in and crashed the site.

Victoria's Secret
Model Tyra Banks the Victoria’s Secret fashion show Wednesday, Feb. 3, 1999 in New York.

Source: Time

Meanwhile, the brand was also launching some of its best-known and most successful products, including its heavily padded Miracle Bra and Body by Victoria.

Body by Victoria was a “blockbuster success” and more than doubled the sales volume of any other bra that Victoria’s Secret had previously launched, Michael Silverstein wrote in his book, “Trading Up.”

Around this time (1997), the idea of the Victoria’s Secret “Angel” came into play after a commercial featuring Helena Christensen, Karen Mulder, Daniela Peštová, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks ran to promote its “Angels” underwear collection.

Victoria's Secret old

From then on, the term “Angel” become synonymous with the brand.

Throughout the ’90s and early 2000s, its commercials featured heavily made-up and scantily dressed Angels.

Victoria's Secret ad 1997

Razek hired the best photographers and television directors in the world to make commercials for the brand. 

The runway shows became more lavish. In 2000, model Gisele Bündchen walked the runway in what was then the most expensive item of lingerie ever created, a $15 million diamond-and-ruby-encrusted ‘Fantasy Bra.’

Gisele

It’s been tradition for an Angel to wear a “Fantasy Bra” at every runway show since 1996. These change each year.

In 2000, Sharen Jester Turney came on as CEO of Victoria’s Secret Direct, heading up its catalog business.

Sharen Jester Turney

According to reports at the time, Turney wanted to remove the “hooker looks” in the catalog and made the aesthetic more like Vogue than Playboy.

She became CEO of the whole brand in 2006. Under her nine-year tenure, the company thrived; sales increased by 70% to $7.7 billion.

Sharen Jester Turney and VIctoria's Secret models

Source: Business Insider

Turney abruptly stepped down in 2016 and was succeeded by Wexner as interim CEO.

Sharen Turney

Wexner made a series of quick and fast changes: killing the catalog, swimwear, and apparel to focus solely on lingerie, the core part of its business.

He also split the brand into three — Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty, and Pink — and recruited a CEO for each division.

Jan Singer became CEO of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie in September 2016.

Jan Singer

Between 2015 and 2018, sales began to falter.

Victoria's Secret

Victoria’s Secret was slow to adjust to a shift from padded and push-up bras toward bralettes and sports bras, missing out on a major fashion trend. 

More body-positive underwear brands such as Aerie, ThirdLove, and Lively cropped up, taking making share.

Aerie
Aerie.

Victoria’s Secret was accused of failing to adapt to the times.

Between 2016 and 2018, its market share in the US dropped from 33% to 24%. Some shoppers complained that the quality of its underwear had slipped.

Victoria's Secret

Source: Business Insider

One of its biggest assets, teen-centric brand Pink, also began to struggle. Sales slipped, and it resorted to heavy discounting to woo shoppers.

PINK

“We believe Pink is on the precipice of collapse,” Jefferies analyst Randal Konik wrote in a note to investors in March 2018, commenting on the level of promotions in store.

Some parents complained that Pink was being brought down by Victoria’s Secret’s over-sexualized ads.

Its annual fashion show drew criticism for being outdated, and viewership slipped. In November 2018 Razek sent the internet into a frenzy after he made controversial comments about transgender and plus-size models.

Victoria's Secret

Razek said in an interview with Vogue that he didn’t think the show should feature “transsexuals” because the show is a ‘fantasy.” “It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” he said in the interview.

victoria's secret ed razek
Ed Razek speaks to the 2018 Victoria’s Secret runway models backstage during the 2018 Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show at Pier 94 on November 8, 2018 in New York City.

Razek made a formal apology online but some of his critics called for him to step down. 

Read more: People slammed Victoria’s Secret after its marketing chief made controversial comments about transgender models, but he didn’t resign. This could be why, according to former executives.

Less than a week after Razek’s comments went viral, Singer resigned.

Jan Singer

Source: Business Insider

Singer was replaced by John Mehas, who took over the role at the start of 2019.

Victoria's Secret runway show 2018

Mehas had his work cut out for him. Same-store sales at Victoria’s Secret were down 3% in 2018, and was gradually losing market share to new companies. 

Plus, he had angry shareholders to deal with. In March 2019, activist shareholder Barington Capital sent a letter to Wexner, laying out recommendations to improve growth at Victoria’s Secret in order to “unlock substantial value.”

In the letter, Barington’s CEO, James A. Mitarotonda, called out the company’s brand image as being “outdated.”

“Victoria’s Secret’s brand image is starting to appear to many as being outdated and even a bit ‘tone deaf’ by failing to be aligned with women’s evolving attitudes towards beauty, diversity, and inclusion,” he wrote. 

Read more: An activist shareholder is urging Victoria’s Secret parent to update ‘tone-deaf’ brand image to boost sales

Barington called out the lack of diversity in its board of directors as being an issue for the brand. At the time, of the 11 board members, nine were men.

Les Wexner
Wexner and his wife Abigail both sit on the board of directors.

It seems Victoria’s Secret took this criticism to heart. After acknowledging the letter in a statement, it appointed two new female board directors — Sarah E. Nash and Anne Sheehan — and made steps to address the comments about the brand image being outdated. 

It hired a more body-inclusive model.

Barbara Palvin

While she is not a plus-size model, fans praised the company for its decision to take on Hungarian model Barbara Palvin as one of its newest Angels.

Instagrammers celebrated a post starring Palvin for being more body-inclusive, as they perceived her to be curvier than some of the brand’s other models.

“This model actually looks healthy..& I’m loving it!” one Instagram user wrote.

“At last! A real human body,” another said.

It also hired its first openly transgender model.

Valentina Sampaio

Brazilian transgender model Valentina Sampaio, shared a photograph of herself on Instagram in August tagging the Victoria’s Secret Pink brand along with the hashtags: “campaign,” “vspink,” and “diversity.”A day later, she shared a video of herself with the caption “Never stop dreaming.”

Her agent later confirmed that she had signed a contract with Victoria’s Secret.

The same day, Wexner announced that Razek would be resigning in the middle of August in a memo sent out to employees.

leslie wexner ed razek
Les Wexner and Ed Razek pose backstage at the 2016 Fragrance Foundation Awards presented by Hearst Magazines – Show on June 7, 2016 in New York City.

Source: Business Insider

And on November 21, the company confirmed that it had officially canceled its runway fashion show that year.

VS fashion show

During a call with analysts after reporting its third-quarter earnings results, L Brands CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer responded to a question about whether the fashion show would run this holiday season. 

“We will be communicating to customers, but nothing similar in magnitude to the fashion show,” he said. 

Wexner previously told employees in May that Victoria’s Secret was “rethinking” the show. And Victoria’s Secret model Shanina Shaik — who has walked in several of its fashion shows — told The Daily Telegraph in Australia in July 2019 that the annual show was off this year. 

While these were potentially positive changes, the brand found itself caught up in a new challenge in the summer of 2019: its CEO and the company being linked to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Epstein/Wexner
Waxner and Epstein

Epstein managed Wexner’s money for several years, and former company executives told the Wall Street Journal that he tried to meddle in Victoria’s Secret’s business, offering input on which women should be models.

Some of Epstein’s victims came forward saying that he used his connection to Victoria’s Secret to coerce them into sexual acts.

L Brands’ board of directors announced that it had hired an outside law firm to review its relationship with Epstein. In September, Wexner addressed his ties to Epstein at L Brands’ investor meeting.

“At some point in your life we are all betrayed by friends,” Wexner said. “Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to. But that is in the past.”

Read more: Former employees reveal what the billionaire head of Victoria’s Secret is like as a boss as he faces backlash over his ties to Jeffrey Epstein

In February 2020, the company announced that Wexner would be stepping down as chairman and CEO of L Brands but would stay on as chairman emeritus and sit on the board of directors. At the same time, it announced that it was selling a 55% stake in Victoria’s Secret to private equity firm Sycamore Partners.

Les Wexner painting

In a statement to the press announcing the news, Wexner said that Sycamore has “deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success,” and that it “will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”

 

In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic swept across the US and Victoria’s Secret was forced to shutter its stores.

Victoria's Secret

At the end of April 2020, Sycamore filed a lawsuit to back out of the deal, alleging that Victoria’s Secret’s actions taken during the pandemic to close stores, cut back on new inventory, and not pay rent for the month of April were in violation of the agreement that the two parties had made in February.

L Brands immediately issued a statement saying that a termination of the agreement is “invalid,” and that it would “vigorously defend” the lawsuit and “pursue all legal remedies to enforce its contractual rights.”

On May 4, 2020, L Brands announced that the deal with Sycamore had officially fallen apart.

Victoria's Secret

L Brands said that it had come to a “mutual agreement” with Sycamore to “terminate” the deal.

The company also said that it had reshuffled its management team and would focus on “implementing significant cost reduction actions and performance improvements at Victoria’s Secret.”

This included permanently closing as many as 250 Victoria’s Secret and Pink stores in the US and Canada in 2020.

 

 

In the second half of 2020, the brand started to recover, boosted by more sales online.

Victoria's Secret

Jefferies analysts described Victoria’s Secret’s progress as “admirable,” after it reported strong fourth-quarter results in early 2021. 

Bloomberg later reported that L Brands had resumed discussions to sell the brand once more and was seeking a much higher valuation, in the region of $3 billion.

But in May, L Brands put an end to speculation and said that it was no longer looking for a buyer and would split the company in two and spin-off Victoria’s Secret to become a standalone company.

 

 

 

Since then, it has been working hard to execute a turnaround under new leadership.

Victoria's Secret

Read more: Victoria’s Secret is experiencing a major comeback after years of declining sales — and Wall Street is salivating

It has also taken steps to overhaul the brand image. Most recently, swapping its Angels for a new group of activists and entrepreneurial women to be the face of the brand.

Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Victoria’s Secret abandons its scantily dressed Angels, saying they are no longer ‘culturally relevant.’ Activists and entrepreneurs will be the new faces of the brand, it says.

Victoria Secret
Models Gisele Bündchen, Alessandra Ambrosio, and Karlie Kloss are among its former Angels.

  • Victoria’s Secret CEO said its Angels were no longer “culturally relevant.”
  • The brand said Wednesday that it’s partnering with activists and entrepreneurs for its new image.
  • Victoria’s Secret has been working hard to overhaul its brand image after years of criticism.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Victoria’s Secret is abandoning its Angels.

The lingerie giant said Wednesday that it was partnering with a group of inspirational women – including gender-rights activists and entrepreneurs – to promote a new brand image and shape its turnaround.

Read more: Victoria’s Secret is experiencing a major comeback after years of declining sales – and Wall Street is salivating

These women, who include Indian actor and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra Jonas and pro soccer player and gender rights activist Megan Rapinoe, will effectively take on the role of the Victoria’s Secret Angels by becoming the face and voice of the brand.

Victoria’s Secret’s Angels have been synonymous with the brand since the late 1990s. These women, who have included some of the world’s most famous models over the years – Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks, and Heidi Klum to name a few – were the face of the brand through its marketing campaigns and infamous annual runway shows.

In an interview with The New York Times, Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters said that Angels were not “culturally relevant.”

Read more: People slammed Victoria’s Secret after its marketing chief made controversial comments about transgender models, but he didn’t resign. This could be why, according to former executives.

In its heyday, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Victoria’s Secret runway show had a powerful role defining what “sexy” was in the modern day. In more recent times, it has been criticized for being outdated.

Ed Razek, former longtime marketing chief at the brand’s parent company, L Brands, was the brains behind the fashion show. Razek was considered one of the most influential people in modeling throughout the early 2000s, helping to launch the careers of some of the world’s most famous models.

He stepped down in August 2019 and the fashion show was canceled that November, one a year after he made controversial comments about featuring transgender and plus-size models in its annual runway show.

Waters told The Times that the brand’s recent overhaul was long overdue.

“I’ve known that we needed to change this brand for a long time,” He said. “We just haven’t had the control of the company to be able to do it.

“In the old days, the Victoria brand had a single lens, which was called ‘sexy,'” he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider