The top five women's underwear brands, which include Victoria's Secret, Fruit of the Loom, Jockey, Maidenform and Vanity Fair, have lost market share from a combined 51.6% in 2013 to 41.2% in 2018, according to a Coresight Research report emailed to Retail Dive. The top women's brand in the U.S., Victoria's Secret, held 31.7% of the market in 2013, but was down to 24% in 2018.
Athletic brands and fast fashion companies are picking up share as consumers increasingly purchase sports bras along with comfort and fashion trends. The combined market share of Aerie, PVH, Soma Intimates, Nike, Under Armour, Adidas, Lululemon, H&M and Champion increased from 9.1% in 2013 to 12.7% in 2018, per the report. American Eagle-owned Aerie has seen the most dramatic increase, doubling its growth from 1.6% in 2013 to 3.2% in 2018.
Digitally native brands are increasingly edging out more traditional companies. This combined segment grew from 28.1% in 2013 to 36.2% in 2018, according to Euromonitor data cited in the report.
The $13 billion U.S. women's underwear market is rapidly changing. Those brands that comprehend consumers' ideas of body inclusivity are proving to be disruptors, while the ones with a narrow definition of sexuality are getting left behind.
Victoria's Secret in particular has become a lightning rod when it comes to changing consumer habits within the market. In a now infamous interview with Vogue at the end of 2018, L Brands marketing chief Edward Razek stated that the company shouldn't have "transsexuals in the show" because "the show is a fantasy."
The runway show to which Razek was referring has since been canceled (at least in its current format), with L Brands CEO Les Wexner explaining that the event was no longer the right fit for network television. But it's not just the show getting nixed: Victoria's Secret also announced that it was shuttering 53 stores in February, and in company earnings on Wednesday, L Brands reported that comp sales dropped 5% in the first quarter of 2019 for the brand.
"Gone are antiquated images and stereotypes of 'sexy' women wearing lacy lingerie," the Coresight report states about the underwear segment. "The definition of sexy today has evolved into how a woman feels and less how she looks. The conversation now includes words such as 'confident,' 'strong,' 'athletic,' 'powerful' and 'assertive.'"
While traditional brands seem to be teetering, direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies that embrace consumer feedback are taking market share. "E-commerce allows more niche players to enter the market, and technology provides new channels for brands to understand and respond to customers," according to the Coresight report. Additional forces impacting the industry include technology that can rapidly respond to trends, fabric innovations (such as moisture wicking and no-seam fabric), extended sizing and marketing efforts that focus on body positivity.
In the meantime, retailers are slowly starting to respond to consumer demands by introducing products for a variety of body shapes and through thoughtful interaction on social justice issues. In February, Target debuted three new private underwear labels, along with a campaign that touted size inclusivity, Nordstrom partnered with "period-proof underwear" company Thinx in January and Calvin Klein underwear products now feature detailed instructions on how to recycle its packaging.