After a four-year hiatus, Victoria's Secret is aiming for a red-carpet comeback. It is resurrecting the once-iconic Victoria's Secret fashion show as a feature-length film. And instead of showing off the rail-thin "angels" of yore, it will highlight 20 global creatives who will curate fashion curations from Bogota, Lagos, London and Tokyo.
"This film is the ultimate expression of Victoria's Secret brand transformation," says Raúl Martinez, executive vice president and head creative director at Victoria's Secret. "It will be driven by fashion, glamour and entertainment with a nod to beloved iconography from the past but in a bold, redefined way."
The company initially announced the show would return on an investor call back in March, but provided no details.
The idea is to celebrate the company's heritage through a new lens as it navigates its new identity. But while the company recently posted its fifth consecutive quarter of declining market shares, observers are skeptical about its ability to recapture the love and loyalty that once made it a mall favorite.
Of the 20 apparel brands ranked by Brand Keys, a New York-based loyalty consultancy, it now sits in last place, says Robert Passikoff, Ph.D., founder and president of the loyalty consultancy.
Some of that is due to the lingering impact of the company's 2019 implosion. That included the executive resignations due to fat- and trans-phobic remarks, the break-up of L Brands and Victoria's Secret, and the 2021 departure of Leslie Wexner, the VS founder now best known for close ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Theoretically, that should all be ancient history by now. But the brand image new leaders have conjured to replace the company's ultra-sexualized past, including "Undefinable," launched last fall, hasn't connected with consumers.
In its most recent quarterly results, sales fell to $1.19 billion, a decline of 8.4%. Net income slipped to $172.9 million, down from $246 million in the prior year's comparable period.
Passikoff says that while the brand's body-shaming past is now a years-old memory, "it came at a time when there was a real groundswell of awareness and tremendous competition from other brands."
Those include companies like American Eagle Outfitters' Aerie, another mall-based store, and digital players like ThirdLove, Lively and Adore Me.
"Victoria's Secret responded with positioning that said, 'We are for all women and all body types,' but that can't undo 40 years of advertising that said 'This is what women should look like,'" he tells Marketing Daily. "It's like turning the Queen Mary around. It's not going to happen in an hour."
While he thinks the new tour may get some buzz and earned media, "I doubt you'll see a massive sales increase. It's not like people aren't aware of the brand. Everyone knows it. It's that they are rejecting it."
Passikoff says loyalty reflects how well a given brand meets expectations. "In this case, it's an emotional issue more than a product one. It's about self-image. You don't adorn yourself in clothes from people who once made fun of you. You just don't."
Victoria's Secret acquired Adore Me in November for $400 million, a brand quite popular with Gen Z and millennials.
"The recent acquisition of Adore Me is expected to contribute just under $300 million to 2023 sales, which will help support topline growth," writes Adrienne Yih, an analyst who follows Victoria's Secret for Barclays. But she still sees problems ahead. Those include the ongoing need to mark down existing and unbalanced inventory and "difficulty driving traffic and sales."
There is also uncertainty about the company's ability to reinvigorate the Pink line, aimed at younger shoppers. Yih continues to keep a neutral rating on the stock and lowered her estimate "on the assumption of continued brand weakness and difficulty growing market share."