Angel wings and sparkly underwear are out. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is no longer happening.
During the company’s earnings call on Thursday, L Brands’ CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer told analysts that the hour-long special, which has been shown since 2001, would not be happening. Why? The official answer is that L Brands, which owns Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, wants to “evolve the marketing” of its signature lingerie brand and that the show had no immediate effect on sales of its bras and underwear.
“In general, the answer to that question is no,” Burgdoerfer said when asked if the airing of the fashion show had a big effect on short-term sales. “So if you’re like, “Oh my God, Stuart, are you freaked out about the day after the fashion show result and what’s going to happen?” it did air at different times over the years, and we didn’t see a big difference in the next few days’ results.”
It’s possible that the real answer is more complicated than that. The show has been used to promote brands for a long time. It is a glossy “commercial meets fashion fantasy” where supermodels walk down the runway to pop star music. But ratings have been declining. In December 2018, Shawn Mendes and Bebe Rexha performed at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on ABC, which was put on by Done + Dusted. The show was watched by 3.3 million people. This is less than in 2016 (6.7 million) and 2013 (9.7 million).
In recent years, customers have started to prefer bralettes and clothes that fit all body types to push-up bras and washboard abs, which has hurt Victoria’s Secret brand. CNBC says that sales at Victoria’s Secret stores that have been open for at least a year are down 7% from the same time last year. This is a faster drop than the year before.
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In an interview with Vogue last year, Ed Rezak, who was then the head of marketing, said that he didn’t think transgender models belonged in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show and that there was no TV interest in plus-size runway shows. He later said that his comments about transgender models were “insensitive.” Separately, the longtime ties between L Brands CEO Les Wexner and alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein have been brought to light. This has put Wexner and the company under the microscope in recent months.
Burgdoerfer said Thursday that the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show “was a very important part of the brand building of this business and was an important part of the brand and a remarkable marketing achievement.” He also said, “We’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand and best communicate that to customers, and that’s one of the things that [CEO] John [Mehas] is focused on.”
This year, Victoria’s Secret will not have a fashion show. Instead, they will do other holiday marketing, but Burgdoerfer says that “nothing is as big as the fashion show.”