- Victoria’s Secret announced that it is closing 53 stores in North America this year.
- Its parent company, L Brands, reported fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, and same-store sales at Victoria’s Secret were down 3%.
- The brand has struggled in recent years – sales have slipped, and its provocative ads are being criticised by some as being tone deaf in the era of #MeToo.
- We visited one of its stores to trial the shopping experience first hand.
Victoria’s Secret announced Wednesday that it will be closing as many as 53 stores in North America this year. This follows 30 closings in 2018
The news came after the lingerie giant’s parent company L Brands, released its fourth-quarter earnings results. Same-store sales for Victoria’s Secret were down 3% for the quarter and overall for 2018.
A spokesperson for L Brands told Business Insider that the company has not yet released a list of store closings.
We visited one of its stores on Thursday morning to find out what it is like to shop there:
The store we visited is located in downtown Manhattan, New York in the World Trade Center Westfield mall.
The mall, which opened in 2016, is classified as a Class A mall, which is determined by the sales-per-square foot of its tenants.
The reviews online are extremely positive. “Probably one of the best Victoria’s Secret stores I have ever been [to],” one shopper wrote.
“The customer service here is spectacular,” another said.
For this reason we were expecting a shiny version of a typical Victoria’s Secret store.
It lived up to expectations. Our first impression was good – the store was well organised and the inventory was neatly laid out. However, it wouldn’t take much for this to descend into chaos; piles of inventory are a recipe for disaster in busier times.
A “Body by Victoria” display was front and center at the entrance.
This was surprising. In the company’s third-quarter earnings call in November, CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer said that these bras along with its Angels collection had seen weaker sales, which he blamed on lack on innovation with the bra. We would expect to see the best products at the front.
We were also surprised to find that despite its the standard bulk buying deals on panties, there were no sales signs anywhere.
Wall Street has been critical of the level of promotions in Victoria’s Secret stores in the past. One analyst said he believed its sister brand Pink was on the “precipise of collapse,” because of the level of promotions.
In a call with investors on Thursday, Burgdoerfer addressed this problem but said that it will “take a little bit of time” to reduce promotional levels.
As well as scaling back on promotions, Burgdoerfer said the company is looking at all aspects of the marketing of the brand. “We are taking a fresh, hard look at everything,” he said. “Everything is on the table.”
Brand marketing is one of the most contentious areas of its business. Victoria’s Secret has frequently been criticised for its oversexualized ads in store and racy runway shows, especially in the wake of #MeToo.
Despite this, its annual fashion show continues to run – despite sagging viewership ratings – and the racy images are still highly visible in its stores.
The space was definitely modern and did feel a lot brighter than some of its other stores because of this. However, it still had Victoria’s Secret’s signature dark lighting and black painted walls.
Analysts have criticised this design scheme.
“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.
Parts of the store felt more dated. It’s boudoir-like fitting rooms, for example.
Dotted around the store are prominent displays of its signature “Push-Up” bra.
These racy silhouettes and neon colours are a far cry from the setup at rival underwear brands such as American Eagle’s Aerie, which has achieved explosive growth in recent years.
To the side of the main store is a section devoted entirely to Victoria’s Secret’s teen-focused brand Pink. The lighting, music, and display style is completely different here.
To shop Pink you need to go through the Victoria’s Secret section, despite the big differences in the brands.
Some parents have complained about this in the past, saying that Pink is brought down by Victoria’s Secret’s oversexualized ads.
In January, a mother complained on Facebook about this, describing some of these images as almost “pornography.”
Pink was once a sweet spot for Victoria’s Secret but in recent years has also come under pressure and resorting to heavy discounting.
But there were no sale signs on display during this visit and this area of the store was also very well kept and easy to shop.
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