How Victoria's Secret Can Save Itself

A couple recent New York Times pieces have detailed Victoria’s Secret’s apparent slide toward obscurity. Whereas their televised runway show used to garner more viewers than The Voice, it now gets fewer than a replay of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Sales have fallen and two executives (both women) are stepping down. Its twelve-person board has only three women on it.

The story in the Styles section reveals that 60% of respondents to a survey felt the brand was “fake” or “forced,” and various women interviewed expanded on that sentiment. The fantasy VS is selling doesn’t seem to be the same fantasies women are having any more. That fantasy could be described in one of two ways, which are two sides of the same coin: the fetishized object of desire (supposing that a model/stripper is what people desire) or, slightly more empowering, the “glamazon,” as one woman put it. Inclusivity has definitely been a brand issue, and competitor brands are meeting the tastes of women looking for something other than glitz, seduction, and sorority-vibes.

Catch up, quick

It’s easy to diversify: make non-beige “nudes,” make more sizes available, even if not in store. For a company of this size, these changes should be easy to incorporate.

Release your grip on pink

We get it—bras are for girls. (I imagine it’s a long time before VS ads show us gender-nonconforming people in wings.) But you don’t need to sell your PINK athleisure with the color pink. It would be insulting to think that “girly-girls” aren’t intelligent enough to get it without such on-the-nose design.

But don’t stray from your lane

Don’t compete with ThirdLove or Knix, compete with Gap Body and Aerie. VS doesn’t need to, can’t, and shouldn’t compete with the most contemporary or cutting-edge brands or aesthetics. Leave artsy, muted palettes, crystals-and-macrame lifestyle, and high-tech fabrics to the other guys. Energetic colors and patterns are your thing.

I remember shopping VS as a teenager because it was, quite simply, the one underwear store in the mall. And while it was exciting to gain entree to a store that seemed to be for women with sexy secrets, it was really all about the grab-and-go bins of undies sorted by size.

VS should put an emphasis on great basics to draw in a loyal customer base who, like me, long ago switched over to Gap Body for her 5-for-$20 resupplying needs. If VS could offer me the same comfort at a lower price or with a different offering of colors and patterns (that didn’t make me feel like a kiddie pageant contestant), I’d consider coming back.

Shift from bordello to boudoir vibes.

I suspect that for the VS customer base, ThirdLove is too niche, and the Gap is too basic. But I honestly avert my eyes when I pass a VS store in the mall, because five-foot-high cleavage shots are staring out at me from what looks like a stripper’s circus tent.

VS has advantages in brick and mortar locations and affordability. Instead of serving the masses its current sickeningly sweet cream-puff buffet, serve the masses what they really need: functionality and affordability with a sprinkling of delight. Just a sprinkling, y’all! Take the volume down a notch or five and become your best-dressed friend’s closet.

Take a page from Journelle’s stores and make the in-store experience safe, calm, comfortable, and sensual (as opposed to nightclub-y). Or, if a little streak of nasty and naughty is what really makes people VS devotees, hew closer to Agent Provocateur or Kiki de Montparnasse, which are priced out of reach for many.

As VS has already proven by incorporating PINK within its larger stores, it’s possible for the circus tent to fit more than one flavor. Ya just need to convince folks it’s safe to come inside.

Good luck, Angels!

Book reports handed in late

Book Report: "Green," by Sam Graham-Felsen