Why the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show Was Canceled

Goodbye, angel wings and bedazzled undergarments. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show is officially canceled.

L Brands’ CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer confirmed to analysts on the company’s earnings call on Thursday that the hourlong special, which has aired since 2001, would not be happening. Why? The official answer is that L Brands — the parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works — wants to “evolve the marketing” of its signature lingerie brand, and the show itself had no immediate impact on sales of its bras and underwear.

“Did we see specific material impact on short-term sales response to the airing of the fashion show, as a general matter the answer to that question is no,” Burgdoerfer said. “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 material impact on the next few days’ results.”

The in-depth answer may be more complicated than that. The show has long been a high-profile branding vehicle, a glossy commercial-meets-fashion fantasy in which supermodels strut down the runway to pop star musical accompaniment. But ratings have been declining. In Dec. 2018, the Done+Dusted-produced Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show on ABC, which featured Shawn Mendes and Bebe Rexha, brought in 3.3 million viewers. That’s down from 6.7 million in 2016 and 9.7 million in 2013.

And the Victoria’s Secret brand itself has waned in recent years, as customers have begun to favor bralettes and body inclusiveness over push-up bras and washboard abs. Victoria’s Secret sales at stores open for at least a year have plunged 7% from the prior-year quarter, marking an accelerated decline, according to CNBC.

Last year, then-marketing chief Ed Rezak told Vogue in an interview that he did not think that transgender models had a place in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, and claimed that there was no TV interest for plus-size runway shows. He later apologized for his “insensitive” remarks about transgender models. Separately, L Brands’ CEO Les Wexner’s longtime ties to accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein have been brought to the forefront, subjecting Wexner and the company to scrutiny 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 aspect of the brand and a remarkable marketing achievement, and with that said, we’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand and best communicate that to customers, and that’s among the things that [CEO] John [Mehas] is focused on.”

In lieu of the fashion show this year, Victoria’s Secret will have other holiday marketing moves in motion, but “nothing that I would say is similar in magnitude to the fashion show,” Burgdoerfer said.

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