Young women like Victoria's Secret, but will they buy?
Consumer sentiment toward Victoria's Secret's brand has risen since April among U.S. women aged 18 to 49, according to new data from brand research firm YouGov. Its "buzz" score rose from 23 to a high of 29 in early October, but then it dipped to 26 after controversial comments in Vogue from L Brands marketing chief Ed Razek, according to the report.
Women aged 18-49 who report buying from the brand gradually rose to 24% up from 17% in mid-April, and satisfaction with the brand rose from 29 to 37, according to YouGov's 19,000 interviews between January 2016 and November 2018.
Meanwhile, Victoria Secret's annual fashion show garners favor among younger consumers and a record of boosting the brand in the fourth quarter, according to consumer insights firm CivicScience. Nearly a fifth (19%) of 3,000 Americans surveyed plan to watch the show, and of those, 54% are female and 46% are male. Those under 18 and those aged 18 to 24 planned to watch in the greatest numbers, with 33% of each age group reporting they planned to watch, CivicScience found.
Victoria's Secret is scrambling to reverse some troubling sales trends amid changing attitudes and consumer preferences. The brand in its most recent quarter saw store comps fall 2%, following a 4% decline in the brand's year-ago quarter.
But the company's fashion show, televised in late fall, has traditionally helped the brand in the fourth quarter, and its recent moves to diversify the models has elevated it among consumers of color, according to CivicScience CEO John Dick.
"I would say that our outlook for Victoria's Secret tends to be less pessimistic than others," he told Retail Dive in an interview. "Not there haven't been self-inflicted wounds [like Razek's recent comments], but that fashion show has been a big boon for that brand. It's always seen a lift."
While the show has seen TV ratings fall, that's also true of other event-based one-off broadcasts like the Oscars, according to Dick. "I don't think that any of the hard times the brand has fallen on have been so hard that they warrant a rebrand," he said, adding that the smaller brands, like e-commerce pure plays and American Eagle's Aerie, are unlikely to take much of Victoria's Secret massive share. "Sometimes it's about mitigating losses — we're acting like this is a brand on life support and that's just silly."
But the consumer sentiment found in both YouGov's and CivicScience's research doesn't necessarily translate to growth, according to Lee Peterson, EVP of brand strategy & design at design firm WD Partners, who isn't surprised that the show boosts the brand at least somewhat. "From our own research findings, I can tell you, 'satisfaction and sentiment' do not translate to sales," he told Retail Dive in an email. "Also, footfalls are down, that's a huge factor. It reminds me of the millennials who would 'prefer' to shop in stores in studies, but don't in reality. Let's put it this way, if sales didn't pick up after one of those multi-million dollar extravaganzas (and yeah, for holiday), that'd be a DISASTER."
Both Peterson and Dick see Victoria's Secret rivals taking small chunks out of a big pie. After all, in the last quarter the brand saw massive sales of $1.53 billion (down $10 million from a year ago), and it remains the leader in its segment. Last year it captured 28.8% of market share in women's underwear, 27.6% in women's nightwear and possibly much more in the lingerie segment, according to an email to Retail Dive from Michelle Grant, head of retailing at Euromonitor International. Lingerie shoppers two years ago spent three-quarters of their intimates dollars at Victoria's Secret stores, and did 85% of their online intimates spending at its website, according to a report from NPD's Checkout Tracking service.
It's now up to incoming lingerie chief John Mehas to figure out how to preserve the positivity Victoria's Secret does enjoy among millions while modernizing its approach enough to improve its sales trajectory.
"Victoria's Secret still owns that market and their sales are pretty damned strong," Peterson said. "It's just that the piranha are starting to nip away at the whale and the media is feeding off that battle. For example, it'll take Aerie about 30 years to equal [Victoria's Secret's] sales, but at this rate, if [Victoria's Secret's] does nothing, that might go a lot quicker."
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