L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, is in a downward spiral. According to Bloomberg, its shares are trading at a seven-year low. Retail analysts say that comparable store sales are in decline, and its April merchandise margin rate is significantly lower than last year. Loop Capital analyst Laura Champine recently dubbed Victoria’s Secret the “Sears of Brassieres.”
The decline of Victoria’s Secret is something we’ve been tracking for several years. The lingerie brand still dominates the market, but it hasn’t altered its marketing, which focuses on being sexy for a male audience. The brand’s flagship event, a massive fashion show where supermodels don angel’s wings and diamond-studded bras, seems anachronistic in the current #MeToo moment.
Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that dozens of underwear startups have entered the market. Brands like Lively, MeUndies, and Tommy John focus on comfort and on feeling good in ones’ skin, rather than on looking good for other people. Meanwhile, even larger retailers have figured out how to adjust their marketing. Aerie, the teen underwear line from American Eagle Outfitters, is all about empowerment and realness, and analysts believe it is stealing market share from Pink, Victoria’s Secret’s teen line.