Can Victoria’s Secret extend its brand to preteens?

Mar 04, 2022

Victoria’s Secret is launching a new online-only private brand in April called Happy Nation. The brand will feature bras, panties and comfortable clothing for pre-teen girls.

CEO Martin Waters, speaking yesterday on the retailer’s earnings call, did not offer much detail on the new line except to say it would go live next month and pointed analysts to the brand’s home page.

Mr. Waters, asked if plans were in place to roll out Happy Nation in stores, said, “Well, never say never, but we are deliberately just teasing you with Happy Nation and saying, coming soon, we’re going to say more about it in April.”

He said that the company would provide more details on its next earnings call as to how the brand is performing and reveal intentions concerning its rollout. Mr. Waters expressed optimism about Happy Nation’s prospects based on Pink’s success in the teen market.

“It’s a natural adjacency for us. And we’re also leveraging our knowledge and beauty to create a really young beauty business in Happy Nation that we think could be incredibly exciting,” he said.

Victoria’s Secret has been engaged in a rebranding campaign to position itself as a more inclusive company “where all customers are welcome,” said Mr. Waters.

The rebranding, that has included images of pregnant women, a transexual Black woman and a model with Down Syndrome, is gaining traction. The company added new customers in 2021, its first standalone year following its spin off from Limited Brands.

Mr. Waters said that concerns raised about the retailer abandoning its long-running Angels campaign came largely from men and not its core female customers.

“We don’t hear about it now. Social media posts are overwhelmingly positively received. And I think the haters have gone away,” said Mr. Waters.

Rebranding hasn’t meant a complete rejection of the chain’s heritage.

“Some of our best-selling items are in the collections that are most provocative. Valentine’s Day is a holiday that we celebrate and we own, and we’re unashamedly sexy at that time of the year,” he said. “But we can do other things as well. And I hope you’ll see that when we launch Mother’s Day, in a few weeks’ time, which I think is about one of the best campaigns that we’ve ever launched.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Victoria’s Secret on solid footing to recapture share of the lingerie category with its inclusive marketing approach? Will the company have success with its new Happy Nation preteen line?

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"Victoria’s Secret was poised on the edge of 'evolve or die,' but has steered themselves back to solid ground with smart rebranding decisions."

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14 Comments on "Can Victoria’s Secret extend its brand to preteens?"

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Neil Saunders

Victoria’s Secret has made great strides under its new management. The overtly sexual and exclusionary positioning of the past has been abandoned and replaced with something more inclusive and empowering. There is a ways to go, but the direction has been encouraging. The new bra launch – Love Cloud – has already attracted some younger shoppers. The new line is capable of extending this success and taking back some of the share Victoria’s Secret has lost.

Christine Russo

Yes, they may be able to pull this off because tweens are not necessarily aware of the Victoria’s Secret parent brand issues and reasons for “cancelation.” Buried in Mr. Waters’ comments is that this line will also include beauty and that could be a major draw. Watch for their choice of TikTok talent as this may determine the success of the lingerie and the beauty lines.

Brian Delp
10 months 23 days ago

They will really need to incorporate sustainability and cause marketing as a core component of the new brand if it is to be successful. Victoria’s Secret hasn’t been very in-tune with even the customer of today, so it really needs to do its homework to understand the consumer of tomorrow.

Liza Amlani

I’m happily surprised that Victoria Secret has come this far since the launch of their inclusivity approach. In seeing this progress, it seems that Victoria’s Secret is getting a clearer grasp on who their customer is and how they can represent them in their merchandising and marketing strategy. It may be optimistic of me but I think Victoria’s Secret can absolutely tap into the preteen market as long as there is a clear point of difference from the PINK assortment range and brand identity. It should be clean, modern, elegant and diverse – representing preteen body shapes and sizes.

DeAnn Campbell

Victoria’s Secret was poised on the edge of “evolve or die,” but has steered themselves back to solid ground with smart rebranding decisions. Although their repositioning around inclusivity lags behind online brands like Third Love and CUUP, their large network of brick-and-mortar stores will give them marketing and profitability advantage far beyond their direct-to-consumer competitors. And stretching to include pre-teens is a smart move since even very young kids watch social media and aspire to copy celebrities and influencers.

Dr. Stephen Needel

Can they do it? Sure. Is it a little creepy? Maybe yes, especially when their best selling items are provocative (their term).

Lee Peterson

I’m going to get all sportsy here and repeat what many a coach told me in the past: “don’t worry about anyone else, just do what you have to do,” i.e.: fundamentals. Is Victoria’s Secret in such good shape that they can expand and take a shot at a whole new customer? OR, do they need to continue to focus on the fundamentals (already dealing with a new generation) and get that right first? I’d say the latter right now. The brand has tremendous equity but after a near tragic experience, nailing what they do best should be a priority.

Gene Detroyer

Focus! Focus! Focus!

David Spear

I’d call this a tight rope walk, given their baggage from the past. Can they be successful? Yes, but I’d advise them to place a much bigger emphasis on the beauty business vs “provocative” imagery and messaging. Additionally, I’d advise Victoria’s Secret to do a better job of listening to their customer, which means embedding early warning alerts and triggers using sophisticated data and analytics, so they can catch market fluctuations in near real time. If you recall, one of the primary reasons their business fell off the cliff is because they failed to see the tectonic shift in sentiment.

Gene Detroyer

Isn’t there enough perfect and Photoshopped bodies selling underwear/lingerie? I have great concerns that the Victoria’s Secret merchandising mindset would be as exploitative for pre-teens as it is for adults.

Do we need anymore perfect bodies to influence girls in this formative age? Fifty percent of teenage girls and 30 percent of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors.

Lucille DeHart

NO. This is a too little too late approach. Victoria’s Secret is chasing the market and not making a product or brand statement that is authentic.

Kai Clarke

Yes! Victoria’s Secret already has a solid understanding of what it takes to appeal to this market, and is now extending that reach while it grows its branding. This is a natural for Victoria’s Secret as it explores new venues.

Craig Sundstrom

I wish the poll had asked us what we thought about the idea, rather than how successful it would be. I wouldn’t have any trouble at all expressing my opinion: I find the idea of a store that (has historically) specializes(ed) in sexy apparel catering to preteens to be, well, revolting. Granted, the store is attempting to reposition itself, but until it has clearly done so, and is recognized as such in the public image, I find this a bad idea.

David Slavick

Having been part of the inception of Aerie from American Eagle Outfitters, there is no doubt reaching the female customer at early stages of brand building to then acquire them for a lifetime is smart business. Why V.S. didn’t do this years ago is the big question. All about the sexy factor, but they could have divided up the store into pre-teen/teen and adult fashion to achieve a more holistic shopping experience.

Anyway, this is a smart move along with all the other efforts to build a more inclusive brand identity, yet still bring accessible value to women that love the fashion, style and aura of excitement that their goods fulfill. VS&Co. is on the right path for sure!

"Victoria’s Secret was poised on the edge of 'evolve or die,' but has steered themselves back to solid ground with smart rebranding decisions."

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