Why-ology News: Trend Go beyond the what to the why of consumer behavior. August 2019

Victoria's Secret No Longer Fits

Les Wexler, CEO of Victoria's Secret's (VS's) parent company (L Brands), sent a memo to employees in May 2018 that said, "network television wasn't the 'right fit' for the annual runway show anymore." Wexler plans to focus on exciting, dynamic content in an event with delivery via digital-age media. Read People magazine's coverage.

ABC television first aired the lingerie fashion show in 2001, making Victoria's Secret's "angels" famous. Founded in 1977, the first VS retail store was in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California. In 1982, VS's 40-page catalog sales were responsible for 55% of the company's $7 million total sales that year. In 1982, VS stores numbered four; by 1986, 100 retail stores were in operation.

The company continued to extend the VS brand into new product categories such as fragrances (1992), cosmetics (1998), and swimwear (2002). In 2006, VS's 1,000 US retail stores accounted for one-third of all purchases in the intimate-apparel industry alone. However, in 2018, VS stock plunged 40%. Fifty-three stores face being cut.

Experiencers are, and always have been, VS's best shoppers. From the first VS-catalog measure in 2000 (VALS™/GfK MRI Fall study), Experiencers were roughly twice as likely as all adults to have ordered from the catalog. In 2018, 13% shopped VS within a three-month period, and 8% watched the annual TV fashion-show extravaganza—the highest incidences for any of the VALS groups.

Figure: Trend: Watched Victoria's Secret Fashion-Show TV Special in the Past 12 Months

VS understands that upmarket excitement through the Experiencer segment trickles down into shopping malls; however, keeping Experiencers engaged is no simple feat. The more commonplace the brand becomes through distribution channels, the less likely Experiencers are to stay engaged, unless frequent exciting in-store offers and brand plays come their way. The annual VS Fashion Show has traditionally stirred up rumors, gossip, and mild scandal—all perfectly suited for discussion among the Experiencers segment. For example, in 2016, model Erin Heatherton purportedly dropped out of the runway show because of excessive pressure to lose weight. Another model, Gigi Hadid, supposedly suffered a visa denial to enter China for the 2017 VS Fashion Show in Shanghai because of allegations of racism against the Chinese or Asian people in general.

Given the tendency for Experiencers to live on various screens, to binge-watch Netflix shows, and generally to interact on social media, VS's move to discontinue the network television show will likely go unnoticed by Experiencers, and provided the gossip train keeps rolling, the segment will keep creating ongoing word-of-mouth buzz for the brand.

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