Amid Declining Sales, Victoria’s Secret Is Bringing Back a Once-Sure Thing: Swimwear

Not even 3 years after discontinuing it, the lingerie brand is reviving its swim line

A model shows off Victoria's Secret swimwear during the brand's annual fashion show.
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Less than three years after shuttering its swimsuit business, Victoria’s Secret is bringing the category back to its stores.

Today, Victoria’s Secret announced the return of its its swimwear line, a longtime favorite for the brand before it discontinued the category along with its catalog to focus on its Victoria’s Secret and PINK labels in 2016.

The new swimwear assortment, which will land in stores and on the Victoria’s Secret website in March, will feature in-house designs and selections from other top yet-to-be-revealed brands.

The move is likely an effort to boost sales. In swimwear’s absence, Victoria’s Secret has suffered. Same-store sales have declined in the past three years, and according to CNBC, shares of L Brands, Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, fell a whopping 60 percent in 2018. (A bright spot, however: This year, the stock is up 3 percent.)

Coming back into the swimwear market, Victoria’s Secret will also face new competition. Retail behemoth Target is the new market share leader in the category, and knocking Target off that pedestal won’t be an easy task.

Victoria’s Secret has been going through something of an identity crisis over the past few years, grappling with its all-out-sexy image when consumers are seeking a more inclusive approach to underwear. Though still the market share leader in its category, over the past few years, it’s faced new competition from challengers. Take, for example, direct-to-consumer brands Lively and ThirdLove, both of which position themselves as feminist lingerie brands, selling bras and underwear as garments of function rather than just fashion.

The brand also came under fire last November after L Brands CMO Ed Razek said in an interview with Vogue that transgender people shouldn’t be cast in the brands’ annual fashion show “because the show is a fantasy,” claiming that “no one had any interest” in seeing plus-size models on the show’s runway. (Razek later apologized for his remarks regarding transgender models.) The brand also faces routine criticism for its lack of inclusivity when it comes to size—it carries band sizes up to 40, and cup sizes up to DDD. (By contrast, competitor ThirdLove announced this week that it has expanded to 78 sizes.)

But in 2019, the brand seems to be trying a new approach—in some respects. CEO John Mehas is now at the helm after taking over for Jan Singer at the end of last year. Earlier this month, it debuted a partnership with LIVY, a high-end French lingerie brand with intricate pieces (and higher prices).

Whether these changes will help the company’s bottom line remains to be seen. Meanwhile, calls to increase the number of sizes the store carries are still in full force—even in the Twitter replies to the swimsuit news.

A representative for Victoria’s Secret did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.