Why is Victoria's Secret going downhill

Lingerie brand: Victoria's Secret in the Crisis: Is the End of the Angels Near?

On that evening in December everything looked as usual on stage: Models strutted across the catwalk with flowing hair and bobbing wings, and in between the pop musicians Shawn Mendes and Rita Ora performed. Anyone who watches the video of the annual Victoria's Secret catwalk show on the Internet sees a lot of skin, a lot of glitter, a lot of tulle. So the mixture that has made the shows bigger and more bombastic for years - and the American brand into the most famous underwear label in the world.

Something was different that evening, though. Not on the stage with the models, who are only called angels at Victoria's Secret, but on the other side, almost beyond the television screen: Only 3.3 million people tuned in when the lingerie group's catwalk show on American television at the end of 2018 was sent. In the previous year it was five million, in 2014 it was even eight million. In the world of Victoria's Secret, this is not just a small drop in quotas, but a full-blown disaster.

However, the drop in audience numbers is not entirely surprising. The crisis had announced itself in the months before. Despite massive discounts and promotions, the parent company L Brands recently reported falling or stagnating sales for Victoria’s Secret. Last summer he issued a profit warning. The value of the L-Brands share has halved within a year, currently it costs just under 23 euros.

Victoria's Secret sales have been crumbling for some time

There is also unrest behind the scenes of the group. Long-time boss Sharen Turney resigned at the beginning of 2016. Shortly thereafter, sales began to crumble. Last December, a few days after the catwalk show was recorded, her successor Jan Singer also threw down. The group, for which things have been going uphill for years, has fallen deeply. Also because more and more people find that the angels of Victoria's Secret no longer fit into a time when an image of women that exaggerates slim bodies is considered problematic. When Victoria’s Secret published an advertising poster a few years ago that showed ten models in underwear and put the slogan "The perfect Body" under the picture, over 30,000 people signed a petition against the company.

A kind of counter-draft is the US brand Aerie, an underwear label that does not rely on tall, slim models to advertise its products, but on women who are tall, short, fat or thin. The brand's sales have been growing continuously for five years. The more things are going up for Aerie, it seems, the more things are going down for Victoria’s Secret.

For Jon Christoph Berndt it is not surprising that the underwear label is being overtaken by other brands. "A company that rests too heavily on success and image will eventually go under," says the brand developer at the Munich consulting firm Brandamazing. "Just as society is developing, fashion is also developing." The group overslept the online trend, and the once popular lingerie has become arbitrary. In addition, through the stores, mainly outside the USA and Great Britain Cosmetics is sold, Victoria's Secret has sold off its brand essence, which was previously aimed entirely at seductive lingerie.

Ed Hardy was once fashionable - and then was sold off

The label is only the last example in a long line of brands that were once highly praised and then fell into disrepair. "The fashion industry is very trend-driven," says Tina Weber, Professor of International Fashion Retail at Reutlingen University. Brands pop up, experience two or three good years, maybe more, and then disappear again. Why is that? "Fashion attracts a lot of attention," says expert Berndt. It is worn in public, observed on friends or celebrities. This means that trends and changes are noticed more quickly than in the case of food or electronics, for example.

At the same time, the industry is changing extremely quickly. "Fashion is very cyclical," says expert Tina Weber. Every spring and every autumn there are new collections, new trends. Customers are programmed to look for new products on a regular basis. If you can't keep up, you'll fall by the wayside.

Just like the Abercrombie & Fitch brand, which descended from the trend label to junk goods within a few years. In 2011, German customers were still queuing up when the group opened its first stores in this country. Only two years later, the once popular tops landed in the retailer's brochure for 9.99 euros. The Ed Hardy brand has a similar history. Ten years ago, celebrities like Heidi Klum wore the flashy tops with the colorful tattoo motifs.

In 2008 the label sold 350,000 items in Germany alone. However, only three years later, most of the dealers had already sorted out the goods. The T-shirts were too cheesy, the trucker caps too chubby. "Simply throwing out cool things only works for one season," says expert Berndt. Keeping yourself in the market is the more difficult task. "Only very few brands succeed in staying in trend over a long period of time," emphasizes expert Weber. Diesel is such a label in her opinion. Levi's and Puma also know how to constantly reinvent themselves.

However, Victoria’s Secret does not want to break new ground. As the fashion magazine Vogue Marketing director Ed Razek asked a few months ago if he could imagine having transgender models appear on the catwalk shows, his answer was clear: "No. No, I think we shouldn't." Why? Because the show creates a kind of dream world. And there, at least it sounded between the lines, there was no room for transgender angels.