Victoria’s Secret, which once defined sexy with its leggy supermodels prancing around in their bras and oversized angel wings, is being sold, its fortunes diminished as women increasingly look for styles that more realistically fit their body types.
The company’s owner, L Brands, said that the private-equity firm Sycamore Partners will buy 55 per cent of Victoria’s Secret for about $USUS525 million ($USA792m). The Columbus, Ohio, company will keep the remaining 45 per cent stake. After the sale, L Brands will be left with its Bath & Body Works chain and Victoria’s Secret will become a private company.
Les Wexner, who founded the company in 1963, will step down as chairman and CEO after the transaction is completed and become chairman emeritus. Wexner has been grappling with his own troubles, including questions over his ties to the late financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted on sex-trafficking charges.
The selling price for Victoria’s Secret signifies a marked decline for a brand with hundreds of stores that booked about $US7 billion in revenue last year. Shares of L Brands fell 88 cents, or 3.6per cent to close on Thursday at $US23.42.
“We believe the separation of Victoria’s Secret Lingerie, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and PINK into a privately held company provides the best path to restoring these businesses to their historic levels of profitability and growth,” Wexner said in a prepared statement. “Sycamore, which has deep experience in the retail industry and a superior track record of success, will bring a fresh perspective and greater focus to the business.”
Sycamore faces big challenges to turn around the Victoria’s Secret brand, which has struggled to keep up with competition. It has also failed to respond to changing tastes among women who are demanding more comfortable styles and don’t want to be dictated to.
Rivals like Adore Me and ThirdLove, which have sprouted up online and marketed themselves heavily on social media platforms like Instagram, have focused on fit and comfort while offering more options for different body types. Meanwhile, American Eagle’s Aerie lingerie chain, which partners with women activists like Manuela Baron, has also lured customers away from Victoria’s Secret.
Many experts say the executives running the company were in a sense designing for men, not for women.
“It was always about men feeling good,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at retail consultancy GlobalData Retail. “It should be about making women feel good about themselves.”