Victoria's Secret may be giving into retail's most dangerous curse

Victoria’s Secret may be resorting to the retail industry’s most dangerous strategy.

The company is famous for its Semi-Annual Sale, which means customers have to wait for bargains. If they can’t, they pay full price.

But more recently, Victoria’s Secret held another sale before the Semi-Annual Sale. And that could be a troubling sign, if it means that the company is giving in to the urge to increase markdowns for the sake of foot traffic.

Incessant discounting is a problem that’s plaguing the retail industry, as many consumers have been conditioned to shop only at sale price. Once you go there, it’s difficult to ever come back, as companies like Banana Republic have recently been forced to admit.

“I will be the first to say that when you start tightening up in promotion, you are playing a game of chicken with your customers,” Gap Inc.’s CEO Arthur Peck said on a recent conference call.

Wedbush Securities analyst Lupine Skelly wrote in a note Wednesday that during this year’s Semi Annual Sale, both bras and swimwear were discounted at much deeper rates than they were last year.

Granted, the company is phasing out its swimwear sector, but it shows that not everyone is as enamoured with Victoria’s Secret as they used to be. (Comparable store sales — not including direct-to-consumer — for the first quarter of fiscal 2016 were up just 1%).

Skelly points out that the company was not discounting its bralettes — the padding-free bra that’s currently on trend — but noted many other places that were selling bralettes, making it not particularly unique to Victoria’s Secret.

The new sale is called the “One Sexy Sale” and ran right up until the day before the regular Semi-Annual Sale began, according to Skelly.

Victoria’s Secret didn’t respond to Business Insider’s request to comment on the sales strategy.

“Although the initial turnout for the Semi-Annual sale looks acceptable, we are concerned by the deeper discounts on bras and feel that the push used to get customers shopping the One Sexy Sale during the second half of May could dampen the results for the Semi-Annual Sale especially given the similarity of product and discount,” Skelly wrote in the report.

The additional sale could just be a way to clear inventory — especially swimwear — as Victoria’s Secret restructures its business to zero-in on three major categories: lingerie, its younger sister brand, Pink, and its beauty sector. Interestingly, though, Skelly notes that some online beauty discounts were as steep as 70%.

In May, the company advertised the “One Sexy Sale” in its Flatiron store’s window.

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