Victoria’s Secret’s progressive experiment did not work.
Over the past several years, Victoria’s Secret changed its marketing plan to be more inclusive — hiring LGBT activist Megan Rapinoe and transgender model Valentina Sampaio, among others — and diversified its models, especially in the plus-sized department. In 2019, the company scrapped its annual runway show over complaints of sexism and a lack of diversity. Two years later, Victoria’s Secret’s angels were no more.
Rapinoe infamously described Victoria’s Secret’s image as “patriarchal” and “sexist,” which she claimed was marketed “through a male lens and through what men desired.”
The attempt to redefine “sexy” in the image of woke social justice may have earned “favorable reviews from online critics,” according to Business of Fashion, but it “never translated into sales.”
In fact, Victoria’s Secret is on track to earn $6.2 billion in revenue this year, a 5% decline from last year, which significantly trails the $7.5 billion the company made in 2020.
“Despite everyone’s best endeavours, it’s not been enough to carry the day,” Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters told investors at a meeting this month, Business of Fashion reported in a story declaring the progressive rebrand “over.”
Now, the company hopes returning to its old traditions will reverse declining sales.
Last month, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show returned with a format that Business of Fashion described as “somewhere in between the personification of male lust of the brand’s aughts-era heyday and the inclusive utopia promoted by its many disruptors.” The company is also featuring models like Hailey Bieber and Emily Ratajkowski, among other supermodels who have worked for the company in the past, in new ad campaigns.
It’s a far cry from the direction the company tried to carve out just a few years ago.
By tightly controlling its brand’s image, updating its brick-and-mortar locations, and offering new active and swimwear, Victoria’s Secret hopes to push its annual revenue back over the $7 billion hump.
The admission about the woke rebrand and changes in company direction come less than a year after Amy Hauk abruptly resigned as CEO. Under Hauk’s leadership, Victoria’s Secret leaned into the woke changes, and declining sales followed.
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