These photos reveal why women are abandoning Victoria's Secret for American Eagle's Aerie underwear brand

Jessie ShealyVictoria’s Secret’s racy ads are infuriating some customers.
  • Aerie has doubled down on its efforts to promote female empowerment, and this seems to be resonating well with customers.
  • Meanwhile, Victoria’s Secret‘s customers are complaining on Facebook that its ads, which feature scantily dressed models, are targeted more towards men than women.
  • We visited the two stores to see how their ad campaigns differ.

In May, American Eagle Outfitters-owned underwear brand Aerie reported a record-high 38% increase in same-store sales for the first quarter of 2018.

“Aerie is simply on fire,” Jennifer Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president, said in a call with investors.

“We have only just begun,” she added, stating that the goal is now to grow the brand into a $US1 billion business and open between 35 and 40 this year across the United States.

Aerie has doubled down on its efforts to appeal to female shoppers, ditching photoshopped images and partnering with women activists to promote female empowerment. It seems to be resonating well with consumers.

Meanwhile, rival lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret has been accused of failing to appeal to customers with its racy ad campaigns, which also threaten to negatively impact its teen-centric brand, Pink. It reported a more modest 1% increase in same-store sales growth for the first quarter of 2018, following negative growth in the previous quarter.

In January, Business Insider reported that mothers of teenagers who shopped at Pink were revolting online because of the oversexualized ads in Victoria’s Secret’s stores.

“It is basically pornography that everyone (children and teens) are subjected to viewing because there is only one area to check out between Pink and Victoria’s Secret, which happens to have the most obscene photos behind the registers,” shopper Jessie Shealy wrote on Victoria’s Secret’s Facebook page.

Pink has become one of the most successful parts of Victoria’s Secret, reporting stronger sales than other parts of the store in recent years.

But it’s not only Pink customers who are being put off by these racy photos. Some Victoria’s Secret customers are also complaining that its ads are targeted more at men than women.

We visited Aerie and Victoria’s Secret in March to see just how extreme the differences are:


We visited two stores in Manhattan’s Soho area. The stores were on the same block and therefore in direction competition with each other.

Google maps

American Eagle’s Aerie lingerie brand is known for its body-positive ad campaigns using “real” women.

Facebook/Aerie

The brand famously doesn’t Photoshop any of the images in its ads. In 2014, it swapped its airbrushed ads for unretouched photos and launched a body-positive campaign known as #AerieReal.

Facebook/Aerie

These campaigns are immediately visible in the store.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Images are stamped with captions that say: “No retouching on these girls.”

Business Insider/Aerie

Female empowerment has become Aerie’s biggest weapon against brands like Victoria’s Secret.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

This is hammered home in its apparel offerings, which bear inspirational messages.

Business Insider/Aerie

The strategy appears to be working: Aerie has seen 16 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth while Victoria’s Secret, whose bread and butter has long been padded bras and sexy ad campaigns, saw negative sales growth for the past year up until the most recent quarter.

Business Insider/Aerie

In January, Aerie announced it would be partnering with actress-activist Yara Shahidi, gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman, and singer-songwriter Rachel Platten to launch its new “role models” campaign.

Aerie/Ali Mitton

It’s a very different scene at Victoria’s Secret.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

The lingerie is definitely more daring.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

Around the store, there are several black-and-white photos of Victoria’s Secret models posing.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

In some, women are posing provocatively …

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

… and it doesn’t seem like they are necessarily targeted at female shoppers.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

There is certainly a different tone in this store when compared to Aerie.

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

One customer commented on this photo on Facebook: “OK, do they want us to buy because this is not how… Is this even FOR women.”

Business Insider/Mary Hanbury

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