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2016 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in Paris - Backstage

Source: Dominique Charriau / Getty

The landscape of your local mall is changing, and Victoria’s Secret is one of the latest casualties of shifting consumer trends. It was recently announced that the lingerie brand would be shuttering more than 50 brick-and-mortar shops around the United States in the coming weeks, yet another sign of the times as physical stores are being reduced due to decreased in-person sales. But while removing a few boutiques may fix the brand’s fiscal problems, it does nothing to address the fact that it is “increasingly losing relevance to a growing crop of shoppers seeking to express themselves just the way they are while favoring brands they see as more authentic,” as Forbes pointed out.

Just a few short years ago, hitting up Victoria’s Secret was a must during any trip to the mall. It was highly unlikely that you were heading back to your car without at least peaking in VS to see what sales they had going on because a gal can always use a new pair of panties. There was something special about walking out of the store with their structured paper bag in the latest permutation of their signature colors. It was a slight flex that you knew how to keep it sexy. Now, however, some of the shine has worn off the brand as women take more control of what they consider sexy. Victoria’s Secret is not keeping up with that vision or what consumers are asking for. But, there are a few things the company could do to regain some of its shimmer with active and potential customers. Let this be a lesson for other brands out there.

Expand Their Size Offerings

For years, curvier customers and women with a little more body have practically been begging Victoria’s Secret to expand their sizes. Several petitions have been created asking VS to expand their line so that plus-size customers can find something for themselves. It’s not an outrageous request, but Victoria’s Secret has continued to decline the call for inclusion. While the brand currently accommodates up to a size 16, that’s really not venturing very far into the plus-size market. As that market continues to increase its influence on shopping trends, it would be smart for VS to recognize the buying power that it had not tapped into and open itself up.

This would also fundamentally mean expanding its line of bras to fit bigger busts. Currently, Victoria’s Secret only offers bras up to a DDD cup. To their credit, this is offered up to a 40 band size, though. Since VS is most known for its bras though, they can do better. Their major competitors, like Soma and Lane Bryant, each offer up to a 46H. Victoria’s Secret is leaving all kinds of money on the table by refusing to cater to customers with fuller figures.

Maintained Their Regular Apparel Line

The apparel that Victoria’s Secret currently offers is a shadow of what it used to be. At one time, customers could literally fill their closets, dressers, and shoe racks with clothes for nearly any occasion–including a day at the office. Yes, Victorias’ Secret had office-appropriate apparel. If you wanted to dress in nothing but VS and stock up on everything you would need during the Semi-Annual Sale, you could easily do that. It was truly a one-stop shop.

Now? Not so much. Their apparel offerings have been scaled back to lingerie and sportswear. At one point, VS even jettisoned its line of bathing suits, which blew customers away. Victoria’s Secret has announced that they’re bringing back their swimwear line, but getting rid of it in the first place as an illogical move. In fact, had VS maintained its full line of apparel for the grown and sexy, they might have been able to save more shops because they were giving customers less reason to look elsewhere for their fashion needs. Victoria’s Secret apparel line walked so that Fashion Nova could run.

Hired More Diverse Models

This is not simply an issue of race; it’s about seeing the fullness of the market and finding new ways to speak to it. While VS has done better about including more women of color in its ads and fashion shows, it took way too long to include Black women wearing their natural hair.  That’s a topic for another day.

The tone of marketing for many clothing lines has gone from purely aspirational to identifiable. That is to say that customers want to see a reflection of themselves in ads. For fashion lines, specifically, they want an idea of what a brand’s offerings will look like on a body like theirs. Keeping that in mind, Victoria’s Secret is marketing to a very narrow piece of their customer base. Even if VS never expanded its size offerings (which it should have done ages ago), it could still hire models with a range of frames and silhouettes. What are their pieces going to look like on short girls? What about apple and pear-shaped girls? The ones with athletic builds? The bodacious beauties? You get the point. While we’re at it, why not include Trans girls in the mix? Surely, Vickie’s could have found a transgender woman that fits their current aesthetic. It’s just chosen not to. And what about women of a certain age? Ladies over the age of 45 still need undergarments, and they probably want to continue shopping at a store they’ve been loyal to for most of their adult lives.

By leaving these bodies out of their marketing, Victoria’s Secret has basically shown that it’s ignoring potential customers. More than that, by excluding these customers, VS is indicating that it’s not really designing pieces for those types of bodies, which adds a whole new layer of exclusion which is reflective in its declining sales figures.

It’s hard to say whether VS will ever do what needs to be done to correct itself and save the business. It’s even harder to say whether consumers would see these changes as a genuine evolution of the brand or last-ditch effort to pander to those that were previously ignored. Making these changes, though, would be a step in the right direction.

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