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Victoria’s Secret Goes Beyond Sexy

Victoria’s Secret knows sex sells. But there’s a deeper message at the megabrand’s new Manhattan flagship on Lexington Avenue and 58th Street.

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Victoria’s Secret knows sex sells. But there’s a deeper message at the megabrand’s new Manhattan flagship on Lexington Avenue and 58th Street.

This story first appeared in the December 2, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

With its tufted walls with Swarovski crystal, curved vitrines reminiscent of yesteryear’s grande-dame department stores and higher-priced range of designer corsets, slips and bras, the flagship projects a level of elegance that casts the flirty and frilly lingerie and romantic beauty products in a softer, luxurious light.

The unit is also the chain’s most service-oriented location, with a host of new features to make shopping easier. And there’s a greater attention to details in the fixtures and visuals, like wrapped hangers with lace embellishment, champagne-gilded ceilings and sophisticated black and white imagery.

The exterior is inspired by a jewel box and constructed of laminated glass panels of varying sizes and different tones of light, and has just a few small windows for an intimate, demure appearance.

“This is an elevated environment to showcase Victoria’s Secret. When you walk in, there’s this feeling of being in a grand lobby, but each room that you enter is a different experience that brings a sense of discovery,” said Sharen Turney, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

“This is a great step forward for us,” added Pat Sanderson, executive vice president of store operations and the national sales manager. “It’s a tight store, with just under 9,000 square feet for selling and 20,000 square feet gross. We feel very good about it. It will be one of our top five volume locations in its first 12 months.”

The store is just one of about 25 doors to sell the better product, including corsets priced at $398, slips at $178, bras at $88 and even a limited edition alligator bag for $7,000. Many of the products are under third-party designer labels, including Pleasure State from Australia, Rosanna Ansaloni from Italy, Princesse Tam Tam and Elise Anderegg from France, and New York’s Flora Nikrooz. The store also offers the more typical lower-priced items, such as mix-and-match panties, three for $30, seen at other Victoria’s Secret stores. Categories include intimate apparel, loungewear, beauty and a temporary collection of accessories for holiday, but not Pink, the Victoria’s Secret subbrand geared for a younger customer.

Such features as the tufted walls and the chandeliers, and some of the special services, could be adapted to existing stores or those slated to be built. Victoria’s Secret is expected to enter Canada next year with its first international stores. Those will be company owned. The company is also busy lining up partnerships in Asia and Europe to expand on those continents as well. In addition, two big U.S. flagships scheduled to open next fall in Chicago on Michigan Avenue and in the Ala Moana mall in Hawaii could incorporate features of the new flagship.

The Lexington Avenue flagship has been operating since mid-November and will be officially launched today with a press conference.

Most appealing is its sense of spaciousness and hospitality. A greeter is stationed in the 1,200-square-foot lobby, there are fitting rooms spread around the store, two personal shoppers and Victoria’s Secret’s first-ever concierge desk for checking coats, wrapping and shipping packages. The store also offers monogramming, gift card personalization and a system for signaling sales help from the fitting rooms. On a special note, there’s a counter for creating your own fragrance by selecting the notes of your choice — aromatic, fruity, floral, woody or warm.

“We think of this store as a flagship that will inform us for future locations,” Sanderson said.

Victoria’s Secret is a division of Limited Brands, which, like other retailers, has recently seen declines in earning and sales. Third-quarter operating income was $41.2 million compared with $61.1 million last year, and net income was $4.2 million compared with $12.1 million. Comparable-store sales for the quarter decreased 7 percent. Victoria’s Secrets comparable-store sales were down 8 percent in the third quarter. Operating income in the quarter rose to $74.9 million from $65.9 million in the year-ago period, but is way down from the third quarter of 2006, which generated $112.8 million.

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