Can a feather-filled catwalk with bejeweled supermodels bring a brand back to life? That’s the hope of Victoria’s Secret as it hosts the annual fashion extravaganza this Thursday in New York, where the original show began more than 20 years ago.
The intimates giant has been steadily declining in recent years as consumers push for more inclusive options. A recent note from Jefferies said the brand is “out of touch” with its super-skinny models and dated fashion, and said the fashion spectacle won’t help.
“With TV ratings that have been in free fall for years and a consumer that no longer resonates with supermodels, we question why the company continues to hold the show,” read a note released to investors earlier in the week.
The event, which began in 1995, quickly became a pop-culture sensation, catapulting models into household names and helping Victoria’s Secret remain the leader in bras and underwear for decades. While the brand, owned by parent company L Brands, still has the majority of market share in intimates, it’s gasping for air amid the #MeToo movement and body-positive shoppers. Television viewership took a severe hit during last year’s Shanghai show.
So have sales at Victoria’s Secret. L Brand, which also owns Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel and La Senza, shares are down more than 40 percent for the year. Troubles continue for the company, which released its monthly sales report for October on Thursday, showing online sales at Victoria’s Secret were flat in October, while in-store sales were down 7 percent, compared with a loss of only 4 percent in October 2017.
But that isn’t stopping Angel alums such as Gigi and Bella Hadid and Alessandra Ambrosio from strutting their wings down the Big Apple’s runway. Romee Strijd will model a 27-pound “Shooting Star” bodysuit by jeweler Swarovski. Model Elsa Hosk will don the requisite $1 million Victoria’s Secret Fantasy Bra. The company said it will sell a $250 knock-off for wanna-be Angels.
Jefferies analysts said investors have reason to be concerned. “If Victoria’s Secret can’t sell $30 bras, why sell one for $250?” the note read. In fact, the firm said parent L Brands “needs to do something to address the real issues.”
Those issues include too many Victoria’s Secret stores and the problematic Pink brand, which the note said was “a fad.”
The firm rated L Brand stock “underperform” and set a price target of $20 — nearly 50 percent down from its closing Wednesday price of $34.85.
But shares shot up more than 3 percent Thursday, the day of the show, after L Brands released the monthly sales report. Net sales for the four weeks ended Nov. 3 were up 8 percent, compared with roughly the same period last year. The strong sales were driven by the Bath & Body Works business.
Nomura Institute also released a note saying both Victoria’s Secret and Pink have “likely topped out,” and that Victoria’s Secret’s core lingerie business, with revenues of $3 billion, might not be making money. “Moreover, we are concerned about a further drop ahead,” the note said.
Meanwhile, brands such as American Eagle’s Aerie and smaller start-ups like ThirdLove and Lively, continue to take market share — brands that value inclusivity over exclusivity.
“It is interesting to recall that the goal of an apparel company at the beginning of the century was to convey a sense of ‘exclusivity,’ succeeding in fanning a desire to live the dream via an overpriced T-shirt and hoodie. But this was predicated on precisely the fact that the brand was not for everyone….Exclusivity gave way to inclusion, and the buzzword of the early 2010s became omnichannel, the practice of selling anything, to anyone, anywhere,” the Nomura note said.
The fashion show airs on ABC on Dec. 2 at 10 p.m. EST. L Brands would not respond to a request for comment.