After little more than two years in the job, Victoria's Secret CEO Jan Singer is set to depart, according to several news reports on Wednesday. Neither Victoria's Secret nor L Brands has responded to Retail Dive's requests for comment.
Singer had previously been CEO of Spanx and a Nike executive. She took over at Victoria's Secret in September 2016 after the abrupt departure of longtime brand chief Sharen Turney. Her appointment had been announced a few months before amid a set of other drastic changes like dropping swimwear sales and the brand's print catalog, as well as a broad organizational restructuring.
In August, Victoria's Secret owner L Brands said that Denise Landman, CEO of Victoria's Secret's PINK brand, is retiring at the end of the year after nearly 20 years at L Brands.
With $7.4 billion in sales last year, Victoria's Secret remains the giant in lingerie retail, but store comps and profits have taken several hits in recent years as the brand has failed to respond to sharp shifts in consumer preferences.
That has left plenty of space for giant killers to move in, and they have. E-commerce startups like Adore Me and ThirdLove have joined legacy retailers like Gap's Love and American Eagle's Aerie in offering the prettier, more comfortable, better fitting and decidedly less risque underwear that increasingly more women prefer.
Singer's departure is a sign that L Brands may understand that the situation is getting dire. Wells Fargo Senior Analyst Ike Boruchow said Wednesday that it "could be one more initiative aimed at a much-needed strategy shift at LB and their beleaguered VS concept." Boruchow also noted the company's shutdown of its upscale Henri Bendel women's apparel banner and pursuit of alternatives for its struggling La Senza lingerie business. In comments emailed to Retail Dive, Boruchow and his team said that the announcement "is the first announced change specifically related to the VS brand — which we view as another promising move in the right direction."
But the departure isn't the most important aspect of the changing-of-the-guard, according to GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders. "In theory the change of management should help as someone coming in will have fresh ideas about reviving the fortunes of Victoria's Secret," he told Retail Dive in an email. "However, much depends on who that person is and where they come from."
An internal appointment would signal less appetite for change than an outside one, he also said, but warned that major change is exactly what a Victoria's Secret leader must embrace. "Despite a dire run of performance and very obvious social shifts, Victoria's Secret has been surprisingly obstinate in refusing to adapt its brand," Saunders said. "However, in my view the case for change is now overwhelming and it has to be a key priority of any new CEO."