Victoria's Secret's 'overt sexuality,' dark stores, and comments about transgender models are pushing the struggling chain further in its downward spiral

Facebook/Victoria’s SecretVictoria’s Secret is ‘out of step’ with what customers want.
  • Victoria’s Secret‘s same-store sales dropped 6% at stores in the most recent quarter, with analysts saying the brand is completely out of touch. They were down 2% including the brand’s online channels.
  • The lingerie brand’s “overt sexuality, its focus on airbrushed glamour, and its dark and moody stores are completely out of step with the mood of most modern consumers,” Neil Saunders, the managing director for GlobalData Retail, said in a note on Tuesday.
  • Comments about excluding “transsexual” models from the brand’s annual show by a senior executive at Victoria Secret’s parent company were cited as one example of how management’s mindset has damaged the brand.

Victoria’s Secret’s downward spiral is getting worse as the brand falls hopelessly out of touch, analysts say.

On Monday, parent company L Brands reported that same-store sales dropped 6% at Victoria’s Secret stores in the most recent quarter. L Brands also announced that John Mehas, who is currently president of Tory Burch, will be taking up the position and replacing former CEOJan Singer, who was at the company for two years.


Read more:
Victoria’s Secret has a new CEO for its lingerie business

According to Neil Saunders, the managing director for GlobalData Retail, the reasons for the retailer’s struggles are “very clear.” Today, Victoria’s Secret simply is not connecting with customers as it once did.

“Indeed, we would go so far to say that its overt sexuality, its focus on airbrushed glamour, and its dark and moody stores are completely out of step with the mood of most modern consumers,” Saunders wrote in a note on Tuesday morning.

Victoria's SecretBusiness Insider/Mary HanburyShoppers are ditching Victoria’s Secret’s ‘moody’ stores.

Saunders blames management’s “embedded attitudes” for the out-of-touch decisions, which he argues have been hurting the brand for a while.

For example, Ed Razek, L Brand’s chief marketing officer, has been slammed for saying in a recent Vogue interview that the company did not plan to hire plus-size or transgender models. Razek said Victoria’s Secret would not hire “transsexuals” for the brand’s annual fashion show because “the show is a fantasy.”

“Not only are such remarks bad for the brand’s image, but it also earned a sharp public rebuke from the CEO of more incisive rival ThirdLove which has been stealing share from Victoria’s Secret for some time,” Saunders wrote.

Heidi Zak, the CEO and founder of ThirdLove, took out a full-page ad in the The New York Times slamming Victoria’s Secret over the weekend.

“Your show may be a ‘fantasy’ but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country,” she wrote. “It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy – let us decide.”

L brands shares

Saunders argues that while a new CEO may bring fresh ideas,John Mehas will have to “blow away the entrenched attitudes that have prevailed for too long.”

L Brands shares are down 8.47% as of 8:31 a.m. ET Tuesday morning.

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