I used to shop at Victoria’s Secret. They had really great stuff. But lately, when I walk into the store, I feel like I’m at a teenage pajama party, a porn video shoot, or both.
Victoria’s Secret used to be “my” store — a place that catered to sophisticated women. Now it feels like a store catering to teenage girls and creepy guys. Why, I wondered, doesn’t Victoria’s Secret want me as a customer anymore? Could it be because I’m not 25? But isn’t that a good thing? I’m older and I have more money.
La Placa uses the example of lipstick to compare older women with younger consumers. “Open up my medicine cabinet and I’ve got 700 lipsticks. You don’t see that with young girls who get one brand everyone else has. Me, I’m 49, and I’m always looking for the right shade. And I have the money to buy the darn things,” La Placa adds.
Touche. Wake up and meet the boomer market. There are more women over 40 than ever before. They have money and they’re spending it.
According to The Wall Street Journal, even Victoria’s Secret is acknowledging that efforts to target younger customers may have disenfranchised their core market.
In the 1990s, professional women shopped the pastel-painted stores for colorful, European-inspired lingerie, supplementing underwear wardrobes previously filled with black, white and beige styles. Soft music played in the background while saleswomen discreetly offered help.
But over time, Victoria’s Secret adapted to a changing culture. One reason Victoria’s Secret got off track, Ms. Turney said, was the success of its Pink brand, which launched in 2002 and aimed to introduce college students to Victoria’s Secret stores. Pink has grown tremendously; in October, an executive said it would probably reach $900 million in sales for 2007.
But as teens and 20-somethings snapped up Pink underwear and pajamas, too many other product lines at Victoria’s Secret shifted to target that same customer, Ms. Turney said.
It was great that Victoria’s Secret brought in the younger audience, but they forgot about the rest of their customers (like me). I’m sorry, but a pink stuffed dog isn’t going to get me to buy more bras. (Though it might make a nice “friend” for my Boston Terrier with a humping problem.)
Victoria’s Secret is working on changing its image, toning down the “super sexy” hype and going back to its “ultra-feminine” roots. Can they win back customers?
Changing customer views will be a huge challenge. Sheri Coulter, a 42-year-old secretary in Flower Mound, Texas, worked at a Victoria’s Secret store three years ago. “It was like pulling teeth to get the women our age to come in there,” she says. “In our 40s and up, we are sexy — just not the same sexy a college gal is.”
For a time, she says, the store where she worked stopped carrying sizes 38 or larger, embarrassing some older customers who were turned away.
If they want me back, that’s great. But if they are re-re-branding, Victoria’s Secret should take some redesign cues from its own website (which does a much better job than the store, in my opinion).
Here’s what VictoriasSecret.com does well:
For now, I’d much rather shop at the online store than the retail store. That’s a problem. If Victoria’s Secret wants me back as a customer, they’ll need to match the experience they’re presenting online with the experience they present in their stores.
[Editor's Note: Holly Buchanan is co-author of The Soccer Mom Myth — Today's Female Consumer: Who She Really Is, Why She Really Buys, and co-instructor of our Persuasive Online Copywriting seminar on March 28th in San Francisco.]