Victoria’s Secret is now nearing the precipice as it fights an uphill battle against persistent sales woes and waning consumer sentiment.
According to a report from YouGov, an organization that tracks brand perception across several categories, including polls from a panel of more than 2 million individuals, Victoria’s Secret satisfaction score has hit an all-time low of 30, on a 100-point scale. At the same time, the retailer’s “buzz score” — compiled using a formula that combines marketing analysis, media sentiment and survey responses — dropped from 31 in 2016 to 23, while the number of women aged 18 to 49 who said they recently shopped at Victoria’s Secret dropped from 28 percent in 2016 to 17 percent.
The report comes just two weeks after Victoria’s Secret reported that sales of its popular Pink line declined for the first time since its debut in 2002. In a call to investors, executives announced plans to eliminate Pink’s swimwear line, nearly two years after it first shuttered Victoria’s Secret’s main swimwear line. Making matters worse, the brand has compensated for superfluous inventory by expanding its promotions and sales periods, a telltale sign of trouble for a company that reported a 6 percent drop in comparable sales for the fourth quarter of 2017, bringing the total to $2.7 billion.
Parent company L Brands’ CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer said during the company’s March earnings call that Victoria’s Secret will be a top priority in 2018.
“We’re very focused on improving performance in the Victoria’s Secret business, staying close to our customer, improving the customer experience in stores and online, and improving our assortments in compelling new product launches,” said Burgdoerfer. “We will continue to be disciplined in the management of inventory, expenses and capital.”
As a result, Victoria’s Secret announced last month that it will turn its attention to new styles in its growing athletic wear and loungewear categories, as well as experiment with more structured bra products. The brand is also seeking growth in more promising regions: Its annual fashion show was held in Shanghai, and it’s partnered with marketplace Tmall to drive sales in China.
Though Victoria’s Secret has made attempts to stay relevant with efforts like its October collaboration with buzzy luxury brand Balmain, ultimately the company is still struggling to compete with the rise of fit-driven startups like ThirdLove and True & Co. Not only have these brands claimed increasing percentages of market share that may have formerly gone to Victoria’s Secret, they are lending a fresh eye to design and extended sizing that Victoria’s Secret has yet to adapt.
It also doesn’t help that Victoria’s Secret’s very image feels harshly outdated. YouGov analyst Paul Hiebert attributed part of Victoria’s Secret sinking sentiment score to failure to adapt to cultural shifts instigated by the #MeToo movement. In the report, he wrote that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show’s 30 percent decline in viewership in November was influenced by corresponding timing, one month after allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Harvey Weinstein.
While YouGov CEO Ted Marzilli said it’s impossible to identify a direct correlation between the two, Victoria’s Secret struggled with criticism for its over-sexualized marketing and muddled brand identity even before the onset of the #MeToo movement. Further, its continued lack of diversity in advertising campaigns and on the runway stands in stark contrast to campaigns focused on empowerment and inclusivity by competitors like Aerie.