The lingerie giant’s latest comeback strategy includes a new selection of shapewear. The limited assortment is a partnership with Colombian-based intimates brand Leonisa and is available at victoriassecret.com starting Thursday.
The soft launch is intended as a test. Depending on consumers’ reaction to the category, the product may be available in some stores at a later date.
While shapewear might seem like a deviation from the lingerie brand’s sexy image — (Victoria’s Secret also sells sleepwear, swimwear and activewear) — it might be just what the business needs to turn itself around.
Sales at Victoria’s Secret, which is owned by parent company L Brands, have been on the decline since 2017 as consumers shift toward intimates brands that promote inclusivity and comfort. L Brands stock is down, too — more than 25 percent year-over-year.
Last quarter, executives said they were hard at work repositioning the brand.
“We think it’s important to evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret,” Stuart Burgdoerfer, executive vice president and chief financial officer of L Brands, said during the company’s November conference call with analysts. “That is happening. And I think there will be more to come as that continues to get evaluated.”
But it doesn’t seem to be happening fast enough.
In fact, the company has employed a number of tactics to win back shoppers in the last year. The list includes re-entering the swimwear category, hiring its first transgender model, then plus-size model and working with outside brands on collaborations. But none of these have produced the desired effects. The recent holiday season — a period many retailers consider crucial — was also a disappointment at Victoria’s Secret. Sales for the nine-week period ending Jan. 4 fell to $3.9 billion, compared with more than $4 billion the same time last year.
Meanwhile, shapewear is having a growth story of its own. U.S. sales of women’s shapewear grew 2 percent to $529 million in the 12 months ending in November, according to NPD’s Consumer Tracking service.
While Spanx has long been the market share leader, a number of other players — new and existing — are squeezing into the space. Names like Yummie, Smart & Sexy, HanesBrands’ Bali and Maidenform brands, Soma, Skinnygirl by Bethenny Frankel and Kim Kardashian West’s Skims Solutionwear, among others. Then there are brands like ThirdLove and La Perla that have hinted at plans to either enter the category or expand their current assortments.
Even so, Victoria’s Secret is still the market share leader in the intimates industry, both in the U.S. and globally. Its impressive retail fleet — 1,143 locations — also makes it the go-to location for many shoppers. If executed correctly, Victoria’s Secret’s shapewear offering might be a win for both the brand and the shapewear industry, drawing more eyes to both.
“Shapewear is one of those categories that you kind of need to be reminded of every once in a while that there’s something new and exciting in the market,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group. “Anything new with an opportunity to reshape the market is going to work. It’s all about being exciting and innovating.”
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