Victoria’s Secret: Assortment analysis sheds light on paths to renewed success
In recent years, Victoria’s Secret has lost some of its lustre, and has been adversely affected by the health emergency. The US lingerie label owned by the L Brands group, whose British subsidiary has filed for receivership, failed to change hands in 2020, when the potential buyer, Sycamore Partners, stepped away from the deal. In 2019, Victoria’s Secret even called a halt to its iconic lingerie show, featuring ‘angels’ with unrealistic silhouettes and extravagantly sexy looks, a magnet for TV viewers in the 1990s and 2000s. Since then, the label’s following has gradually shrunk, a measure of the changing nature of consumers’ aspirations. Marketing metrics analyst Retviews has pored over Victoria's Secret’s assortment, to diagnose its shortcomings and identify which opportunities the label should tap in order to recover on the market.
The first critical issue for Victoria's Secret is the huge extent of its collections compared to those of its competitors, despite the fact that the label reduced by 41% the number of new models launched between 2019 and 2020, due to extremely high inventory levels. Streamlined stocks may be good news for Victoria’s Secret, but other leading lingerie players still have far fewer items to manage than the US label: Aerie, Etam and Intimissimi feature eight times fewer SKUs on an annual basis than Victoria’s Secret.
“Considering the current state of the fashion industry, is there an opportunity for Victoria’s Secret to better manage its assortment, and especially to focus its attention on giving consumers the products they want, the products that sell?” asked Retviews. The label’s range includes a larger selection of sportswear and underwear articles than those of its rivals. In these highly competitive market segments, the products on offer need to be distinctive in terms of technology. They need to make a difference.
Another crucial issue for Victoria’s Secret, famous for its push-up bras, is its approach to diversity and inclusivity, two major themes that the label has only very recently tried to grapple with. Also, Victoria's Secret range of sizes remains very limited. Notably compared to Aerie, which features the same number of models across all sizes, from XXS to XXL. While Victoria’s Secret only offers 4.1% of its models in XXS size, and 9.5% of them in XXL. The study underlined how the assortment actions the label has announced are still largely to be deployed.
In 2019, Victoria’s Secret blamed its negative results on the drop in footfall in its 1,600 stores worldwide, leading to an increase in promotional offers which in turn have had a negative impact on margin. In 2020, discounting continued to be a major factor. Victoria's Secret made price cuts on 77% of its articles (with an average discount of 47%), while Etam and Intimissimi offered deals on respectively 20% and 26% of their range. US brands in general have been highly reliant on price cuts, with Aerie offering discounts on 89% of its range last year.
In terms of the brand image-price relationship, there are a few notable discrepancies. “With campaigns highlighting the famous diamond-encrusted bra worn by Miranda Kerr, [Victoria's Secret’s] brand positioning leans more towards sex appeal and seduction than comfort and value for money,” noted Retviews. “However, the most frequently featured price-point for Victoria’s Secret is one of the lowest [in the market]. This kind of message can be extremely misleading for consumers, though it is chiefly due to the high number of underwear items priced around €10.95,” added Retviews.
The revenue of Victoria's Secret has been declining in the last two years: in 2019 it reached $6.8 billion, equivalent to a 7% downturn. The label is trying to modify its marketing strategy and to be more aligned with the requirements of contemporary women, as it strives to recover its market leadership. “Even though [Victoria's Secret] has lost some of its relevance, no viable successor has yet emerged. For how long will Victoria's Secret manage to remain at the top? If the label will be able to recalibrate its product range, it has a chance to reign supreme again,” concluded Retviews.
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