- The women’s underwear market is undergoing rapid transformation in the US. Longtime industry leader Victoria’s Secret is increasingly finding itself under pressure as new brands enter the market and chip away at its market share.
- Its parent company, L Brands, reported fourth-quarter earnings last month and announced that dozens of Victoria’s Secret stores would close this year.
- Meanwhile, American Eagle’sAerie brand has achieved explosive growth and is opening stores.
- We visited Victoria’s Secret, Pink, and Aerie to see how the shopping experience compared. We found one to be far superior, signalling a new era for the lingerie market.
The women’s underwear market is going through a period of rapid change, and longtime industry leader Victoria’s Secret is increasingly coming under pressure as new brands chip away at its market share.
American Eagle’s Aerie is one of those competitors, and it’s becoming a bigger threat every day as it continues to grow at a rapid rate.
We visited Victoria’s Secret, Pink, and Aerie to see how the shopping experience compared at each of these stores. Here’s what we found:
Our first stop was at a Victoria’s Secret store in Manhattan’s busy Soho shopping district.
Our first impressions were pretty good. There was a lot of inventory on display, but it was neatly laid out.
There were also no sale signs. Wall Street has been very critical of discounting in recent years. One analyst said he believed Victoria’s Secret’s sister brand Pink was on the “precipice of collapse,” because of the level of promotions being run there.
In a recent call with investors, CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer addressed this but said that it will “take a little bit of time” to reduce promotional levels.
As well as scaling back on promotions, Burgdoerfer said in the company’s most recent earnings call that it is looking at all aspects of the brand’s marketing. “We are taking a fresh, hard look at everything,” he said. “Everything is on the table.”
Victoria’s Secret has frequently been criticised for its overtly sexual in-store ads and its racy runway shows, especially in the wake of #MeToo.
But the racy images are still highly visible in its stores …
Analysts have also criticised Victoria’s Secret for its store design, which hasn’t evolved.
“Its overt sexuality … and its dark and moody stores are completely out of step with the mood of most modern consumers,” Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, wrote in a note to clients in November.
Next, we headed to Pink, the teen-focused brand that is also owned by L Brands.
Pink and Victoria’s Secret often share store locations. This was a standalone location, however, that opened in 2010 and is just a block away from the Victoria’s Secret we visited.
The lighting, music, and display style is completely different at this teen-focused brand.
Pink was once a sweet spot for Victoria’s Secret, but in recent years it has also come under pressure and resorted to heavy discounting.
There were no sale signs on display during our visit, but many of the items were being offered at a discount in a bundle package.
There was a ton of neon clothing …
… and an overwhelming amount of items with logos.
There were logos everywhere.
Our last visit was to American Eagle’s Aerie brand.
While Aerie is also often located in an American Eagle store, this was a standalone location that opened in 2018.
This store felt considerably more modern than the first two, which was unsurprising given that it opened more recently.
As we walked in, we spotted a large section devoted to swimwear. This is a category that Victoria’s Secret dropped in 2016 but will relaunch later this spring.
Aerie has made women’s empowerment and body positivity the focal part of its marketing campaign. Analysts say this is behind its explosive success.
Earlier this month, American Eagle reported a 23% increase in same-store sales for Aerie during the fourth quarter, marking the brand’s 17th consecutive quarter of double-digit positive growth.
Empowering images are scattered all around the store.
In 2014, Aerie committed to not retouching any of its images and launched a campaign called #AerieReal. This has a strong presence in the store.
Overall, the styles seemed a lot more relaxed at Aerie …
… and the marketing wasn’t remotely racy.
While Aerie had the advantage of being a newer store, the shopping experience was far superior thanks to its modern and bright design and uplifting marketing campaign.
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