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5 Jan

What to Watch: Victoria’s Secret’s Continued Transformation

Victoria’s Secret’s makeover continues. 

Most recently, the lingerie and wonder retailer added size-inclusive lingerie start-up Adore Me to the portfolio. That was after scooping up a minority stake in Los Angeles-based swimwear brand Frankies Bikinis earlier last 12 months. 

Hailey Bieber for Victoria’s Secret holiday 2022. Courtesy Photo

And this week, the corporate said Amy Hauk, who became chief executive officer of the Victoria’s Secret brand in a restructuring in July, would retire and leave the corporate as of March 31 to spend more time along with her family. Hauk has also led the Pink business since 2018.

Together with her departure, Martin Waters, corporate CEO, will assume the responsibilities of brand name CEO as well, putting him more firmly in charge of the corporate’s key brand while the broader evolution continues.

It’s a change that has also included the firm’s spinoff as its own public company on the Latest York Stock Exchange, store renovations, more inclusive marketing materials, a partnership with Amazon, a recent tween brand and an updated assortment that features things like maternity wear, plus sizes and adaptive innerwear

The corporate that was once known for its hyper-sexualized lingerie, models that many deemed to be too skinny, televised fashion shows and dark stores has since axed the catwalk extravaganza, solid a more diverse lineup of models and tried to position itself as an advocate for all women. 

Waters said it’s only the start. 

“We’re two years into what I consider to be a five-year journey of recovery,” Waters told analysts through the firm’s investor day in Chicago this past October. 

Pieces in Victoria’s Secret’s holiday 2022 campaign. Courtesy Photo

More collaborations and partnerships are coming, the CEO told WWD through the investor day, either by the use of VS&Co-Lab — a platform that highlights third-party brands — or possible acquisitions. 

“Sometimes it is smart for us to partner with a business, a brand, who brings a unique customer, or operates in a unique category, or by some means brings a halo to the Victoria’s Secret brand,” Waters said on the time. “In other cases, we may say, that brand is interesting and we should always make a strategic investment in that brand. Not only do we wish to partner with them to supply it to our customers, but we wish to be a part of their journey. And that’s typically where we expect we are able to leverage our skill set and capability to assist that business. So, are there more businesses that may profit from our capabilities and resources and stores, running digital and manufacturing? I believe so.”

There’s also the fashion show, which Waters described as “a very priceless marketing asset” and said the corporate would bring back in a recent way, although he declined to say when or give specifics. 

“It’ll just be really different in its reincarnation than it was in its past. It’ll be a worldwide celebration of womanhood,” Waters said. 

But attracting recent consumers, or winning back old ones who left amid the #MeToo movement — and after L Brands’ Founder Leslie Wexner’s mysterious relationship with registered sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was revealed — won’t be easy. (L Brands formerly owned Victoria’s Secret.) Some consumers are still skeptical of the changes. Waters himself said many consumers aren’t even aware of the changes yet. 

There’s also the persistent problem of inflation and consumers who, on either side of the pond, are increasingly money strapped and stretched to make ends meet. Like many retailers, Victoria’s Secret has responded by increasing promotional sales. 

Sleepwear by Victoria’s Secret. Sleepwear is a well-liked holiday gift item. Courtesy Photo

The retailer fell short within the third quarter on each the highest and bottom lines, slashing its fourth quarter outlook because of this. But Waters added through the December conference call that since Black Friday, consumers had been “stocking up, seeking to buy Christmas gifts.”

“We’re in for a troublesome December throughout across retail and we should be prepared to sharpen our elbows and fight as hard as we are able to,” Waters said the primary week of December. 

“Our guidance for the quarter reflects our results thus far and the expectations that we’ll should be aggressive in December to get our fair proportion and more of consumer spending this holiday season,” the CEO added. “We remain mindful of the continued economic headwinds and pressure on our customer that may likely drive a highly promotional retail environment. As such, we expect continued sales and margin volatility.”

Waters also identified some tailwinds for the corporate, reminiscent of the lucrative beauty business and international segments. Just before the vacations, the firm doubled down on its pledge (which it first revealed through the October investor day) to grow Victoria’s Secret’s revenues to the range of $7.3 billion to $7.4 billion by 2025. 

Whether consumers will buy into the brand new Victoria’s Secret is yet to be determined. But to this point, investors will not be biting: Shares of Victoria’s Secret are down greater than 17.5 percent, year-over-year.

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