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What’s Victoria’s Secret?


While most major retailing groups are complaining about poor sales growth and a lack of customer loyalty,  Victoria’s Secret has posted like-for-like sales gains every month for the last 24 months and given that their sales for 2010 were in excess of $5.92 billion – they must be doing something right!

At 2OPINIONATED we’re always “Pursuing Perfect Shopping Moments” and we love sharing our tales from the trenches. Olya and I visited the Waikiki Victoria’s Secret store last month and we wanted to share our thoughts on why we think the brand is bucking the trend.

Victoria’s Secret are just about to open their first European store in London on New Bond Street. You may never have personally set foot in a Victoria’s Secret store before – but you will still find it easy to understand the allure of the Victoria’s Secret Experience.

Guys, gays, girls, we all strangely look forward to the annual Victoria’s Secret Runway Show, with a total of 10.3 million people viewing last years extravaganza in the USA alone. First launched in 1995, this years show featured the famous Victoria’s Secret Angels and performers like Kayne West, Maroon 5 and Nicki Minaj and was estimated to cost a whopping $12 million. Even in the digital age Victoria’s Secret still ships out 4 million printed catalogues to its customers annually (OK, some of them might go to teenage boys).

So why has the brand been so successful in this tough retail environment?

Firstly, Victoria’s Secret were one of the first brands to understand the potential power of the Supermodel. Models like Tyra Banks and Heidi Klum have built highly successful careers off the back of their strong associations with the retailer. To this day, being made an Victoria’s Secret Angel is still considered one of the most coveted modelling contracts in the world. But the brands success is about much more than pretty girls parading around in their underwear.

Victoria’s Secret had built a strong business of the back of catalogue sales and they also had the foresight to be an early entrant into internet marketing (they were the first brand ever to feature a dot-com commercial in the Superbowl), so in may ways the brand was well positioned to perform well in an era of multi-channel retailing. The brands revenue had traditionally come from 3 main sources

  1. The Victoria’s Secret stores
  2. Catalogue and internet sales
  3. Victoria’s Secret Beauty

We would even go a step further and suggest that in the digital age the Victoria’s Secret Parades, the Victoria’s Secret Angels and the ever popular “behind the scenes” footage  has become almost a standalone product in itself.

Victoria’s Secret are masters at using social media to ensure that your emotional connection with the brand are made even stronger. On the Victoria’s Secret You Tube page we’re presented with a workout especially designed for us by the lovely Victoria’s Secret Angel, Doutzen Kroes

It’s an absolute marketing miracle, but as a consumer you never feel intimidated by the fact that you are faced with impossible beauty at every single  interaction with the Victoria’s Secret brand.

You feel like Doutzen is saying to you…Psst…it’s just because I consider you my friend that I’m going to let you know… “I wasn’t really born this way, its only because I workout and wear Victoria’s Secret underwear that I look this good…and I just wanted to share my tips with you personally”.

On the Facebook page we’re encouraged to let our Victoria’s Secret friends know what we think…

…and now for our Hawaiian experience, the downtown Waikiki store is both large and impressive. In typical Victoria’s Secret style the merchandising standards are immpecable, there is a large screen is showing the latest runway parade and the styles you have previously seen online are easily identifiable on the shop floor. The store is inviting and it encourages you not only to buy for yourself but to share the Victoria’s Secret experience with your friends by indulging in some gift-giving action.

What struck us as fascinating is the fact the Victoria’s Secret management have realised that all the sales action is at the back of the house. You receive the most service from the staff when you’re in the stores change rooms. This is as it should be (but rarely is)…the staff are right there with you when you’re actually making your purchasing decisions…when you’re trying things on! But you would be amazed at how many retailers fail to service the change rooms effectively and therefore lose major sales through “change room neglect”. It’s also interesting to note, that once your size and preferences have been determined by the sales staff (at the back of the house) the rest of your selection (at the front of the house, the shop floor) is largely self-service.

For our readers who haven’t ever been inside a Victoria’s Secret store we will walk you through the whole  process.

In the change rooms you’re made to feel like a Victoria’s Secret Angel yourself. It’s like being backstage at one of the shows (all you need is the pink robe). Not only are change rooms large but they have external seating, so you really do  feel comfortable coming into the communal changing area half-naked to get an honest opinion from one of your girlfriends.

After being measured by the staff you’re then given a card with your name and size on it and this sits on display outside your change room. You don’t actually try on floor stock on, instead you try on samples and they are kept in a handy closet located just by the change rooms. As you make your selections the staff then write down the specific details of the styles you liked down on your own personal card.

Once you’re finished you then take that card out to the shop floor and you then select the colours you like in that style.  You effectively walk away with a written order that allows you to purchase easily online at a later date, a practice the sales staff encourage. There are also fabulous little touches in the sales approach, you get given the products on a tray (just like in a high-end jewellery store) and the stores have a t-shirt hanging in each change room so you can see how that t-shirt bra really looks in practice (see the images below to clarify what we’re talking about).

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All in all, it’s a very carefully, well orchestrated retail experience !

To be honest the service wasn’t sensational (I was incorrectly measured as a 36, and I was actually a 32), and I possess freakish lingerie proportions, so in the end I wasn’t able to buy a bra in my size but somehow I still managed to enjoy the whole VS experience. The sense of fun you get from the brands marketing communications perfectly matches the in store experience. Furthermore, the ease by which the brand allows you to buy gifts would mean I would definitely buy online from them. – Hannah Brooks

It all comes down to the fact that Victoria’s Secret don’t sell products, they actually sell “production value“, they sell the Victoria’s Secret experience. This “retail experience” is then very closely integrated across all their marketing channels and by then consolidated by the brands effective use of social media. The manner in which the Victoria’s Secret staff are trained encourages every single customer to have an ongoing relationship with the brand online.  Studies have shown that multi-channel customers spend on average 2-3 times more than a single-channel customers – so there you have it!

From our Hawaiian tour we discovered that when you enter a Victoria’s Secret store you don’t actually feel like a customer…you’re made to feel like a member of the Victoria’s Secret family and this factor alone could be the single secret to the brands ongoing success.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Faithies #

    Great article, I’m going to NYC soon so will definitely visit a VS store and get sized up, I find it so hard to get any good service and buying underwear at DJ’s or Myer is something I do when I absolutely have to, its a sad state of affairs in there, they should take a leaf from VS. Thanks girls x

    June 28, 2012
  2. Let us know about your experience. The designs were great

    July 3, 2012

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