Victoria’s Secret is launching a new online-only private brand in April called Happy Nation that will feature bras, panties and comfortable clothing for pre-teen girls.
“I’m happily surprised that Victoria Secret has come this far since the launch of their inclusivity approach,” wrote Liza Amlani, principal at Retail Strategy Group, in an online discussion about the product launch on RetailWire last week. “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.”
“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,” wrote Kai Clarke, CEO of American Retail Consultants. “This is a natural for Victoria’s Secret as it explores new venues.”
CEO Martin Waters did not offer much detail on the new line on the retailer’s recent earnings call except to say it would go live next month. He 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.
To some of the experts on the RetailWire BrainTrust, though, such moves run the risk of pushing too far into unfamiliar territory.
“Is Victoria’s Secret in such good shape that they can expand and take a shot at a whole new customer?” wrote Lee Peterson, EVP of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners. “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.”
“I’d call this a tight rope walk, given their baggage from the past,” wrote David Spear, senior partner, industry consulting, retail, CPG and hospitality at Teradata. “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.”
And for some, the shift Mr. Spear mentioned is one Victoria’s Secret has yet to catch up with.
“This is a too little too late approach,” wrote Lucille DeHart, principal at MKT Marketing Services/Columbus Consulting. “Victoria’s Secret is chasing the market and not making a product or brand statement that is authentic.”