When Victoria’s Secret entered the market in the 1980s, it revolutionized the retail of women’s undergarments. Previously, women viewed their bras on a binary — strictly functional for day-to-day or fancy for special occasions. Victoria’s Secret combined the structure and function of day-to-day bras with the fun prints and feel of fancier bras. But 30 years later, the brand is falling behind the times as consumer priorities shift and younger brands like Aerie and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty adapt.
The lingerie brand, owned by L Brands, has reported negative same-store sales for the past three years now, as women steer clear of its bedazzled bras and underwear for comfortable pieces in cooler colors. That’s as a new cohort of start-ups like Adore Me, Third Love, Lively, Cuup and Knix are resonating with younger consumers as they surge in popularity on social media channels like Instagram.
Wall Street analysts and investors alike are unsure if L Brands will be successful in reinventing Victoria’s Secret’s increasingly obsolete bras business. Even a recent slew of heavy promotions doesn’t appear to be moving products off of shelves, according to UBS analyst Jay Sole, who’s been tracking promotional activity in stores and online.
“The pivotal question on the stock is can L Brands rehabilitate the Victoria’s Secret brand image,” Sole said in a note to clients earlier this week, ahead of L Brand’s monthly sales report. He said he noticed Victoria’s Secret’s January promotions “increased significantly” from a year ago. And that typically means a company didn’t sell enough during the holiday season, thus needed to drop prices to try to lure shoppers in.
Despite its struggles, though, Victoria’s Secret is still a behemoth in its industry today.