How did a company like Victoria’s secret which once made $1 Billion in annual revenue, face boycott from their customer? I know, it sounds absurd, but it did happen.
Victoria’s Secret was founded by an American business named Roy Raymond. As the business kept falling, he had to sell the company to Leslie Wexner for $1 million, the founder and CEO of L Brands.
L Brands is an American-fashion retailer, founded in 1963 based in Columbia, Ohio. It also owns Bath and Body Works Ltd.
Soon after Wexner acquired the firm, Victoria’s Secret made $500 million in sales. The brand became a huge hit amongst the millennials.
In the year 1995, the brand launched its first annual fashion show where thin models with sparkling gem embed bras and wings created new fantasies for men and women.
Change in Consumer Preferences:
In recent years, we’ve seen a huge shift of women towards comfort and convenience instead of choosing all lace and cups.
The concept of diversity, inclusivity in terms of different body shapes and colors has taken swift, and people now want products that could fit with them and not with some standards of beauty.
Women decided to switch to brands that provided representation and comfort from Victoria’s Secret typical bra collections like “Very Sexy”, “Dream Angels” which was built around how sexy and appealing it made them look. The brand revolved its standard as per men’s desire and not women’s choice and requirements.
Moreover, brand likes Lululemon, Nike took the market share with their huge range of athletic undergarment collections. Though Victoria’s Secret has its range of sports bras, the customer couldn’t relate themselves to it. According to market research group NDP Group, sports bras accounted for 1/3rd of millennials’ bra spending in the year 2018.
This change of consumer preferences made a lot of brands adapt to the current market needs. For example, Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty line market introduced products that were comfortable and offers a huge range of sizes and skin-tone-inspired colors.
The Shift towards E-commerce:
The late 2000s have seen a huge shift towards e-commerce. People prefer buying items online instead of visiting stores.
However, Victoria’s Secret chose to run its brand through brick and mortar locations leading to a 12 percent drop in in-store sales during the holidays.
Brands like Clovia, Zivame have made their mark in the lingerie business with their website up and running, providing varieties in color, size from the comfort of their home.
These websites have also included new in-site features like a bra size calculator which makes it much easier to shop for the correct product.
Connections with Jeffrey Epstein:
Jeffrey Epstein worked as a financial advisor for Leslie Wexner. He was also a director of the Wexner Foundations and Wexner Heritage Foundation.
He made millions of dollars by managing Wexner’s financial affairs.
In the year 2008, he was convicted of procuring a child for prostitution and served 13 months in police custody. He was again arrested in 2019 for the sex trafficking of minors in Florida and New York. As per reports, he committed suicide in his jail cell on August 10, 2019.
When asked with Wexner about his comments on Epstein he denied having known about all the illegal activity for which Epstein was accused. He ended his relation with Epstein after his misconduct with minors.
“I would not have continued to work with any individual capable of such egregious, sickening behavior as has been reported about him. As you can imagine, this past week I have searched my soul … reflected … and regretted that my path ever crossed his,” he said.
Though, some business analyst believes Wexner’s relation with Epstein was a reason for Victoria’s Secrets’ boycott.
Controversy of Ed Razek:
What is interesting to see is that a fantasy-driven lingerie brand was run by two old men who did not want to change their mindset of how women are and should be perceived by men or society in general.
Yes, Ed Razek is a 73 years old man who was Victoria’s Secret Chief-marketing officer and producer of the famous fashion show.
Razek said in one of his interviews with Vogue that he didn’t think the show should feature “Transgenders” as the show is “a fantasy”.
“It’s a 42-minute entertainment special. That’s what it is,” he said in the interview.
Soon after this incident, he resigned in 2019 due to the persistent public criticism of his statements depicting misogyny and harassment.
The viewers also decreased for the show to only 3.3 million views in 2018 from 9.7 million views in 2013.
In 2019, the brand announced it will no longer air the fashion show.
Sale of Victoria’s Secret:
In February 2020, the company announced that Wexner would be stepping down as CEO and Chairman of L brands but would sit on the board of directors. It also announced that it was selling a 55% stake in Victoria’s Secret to a private equity firm Sycamore Partners.
In March 2020, due to the COVID-19 situation, the company has to shut down all its stores.
Moreover, by the end of April 2020, Sycamore Partners filled a lawsuit against the brand alleging that Victoria’s Secret’s actions taken during the pandemic like closing the stores, cutting back on the new inventory violated the agreement that was between both the parties,
L Brands immediately issued a statement denying the termination of the agreement as invalid. Nevertheless, on May 4, 2020, the brand announced that its deal with Sycamore has officially fallen apart.
Now, the company has been taken steps to improve the brand image by getting a new group of activists and women as the face of the brand. It has listed Victoria’s Secret’s business as an independent, public listed company.
Current brand ambassadors of Victoria’s Secret include:
- South Sudanese- Australian Model and mental health advocate Adut Akech.
- Lesbian professional soccer player- Megan Rapinoe.
- British plus-size model- Paloma Elsesser
- Transgender model and activist- Valentino Sampaio
- Photographer, Author, Media personality, and Founder of Girl Gaze- Amanda de Cadenet
- Chinese-American freestyle skiing world champion and soon-to-be Olympian-Eileen Gu
- Indian actress and entrepreneur-Priyanka Chopra.
The major problem which made a company like Victoria’s Secret suffer such a huge downfall was because for their rigid decision making and mindset. The brand did not readily accept to adapt with the shift in consumer’s behavior and preferences.
This case study reveals how important it is for any business to keep monitoring and adapting with the changes that happen in the market. Businesses need to keep their strategies flexible and should bring necessary adaptations in their product and tactics as per the product life stage and market condition.
To know more about the product life cycle, check out my article.
What do you think are the other factors that can pull a brand out of its grip in the market? Do let me know in the comments down below!
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