Victoria’s Secret Product Managers Have To Deal With Bralettes

Who knew that bralettes would become so popular so quickly?
Who knew that bralettes would become so popular so quickly?
Image Credit: Hayley Bouchard

So, as a man I generally have very little interaction with women’s bras on a daily basis. However, if I was a product manager over at Victoria’s Secret, bras would make up a big part of my day. The reason for this is because the sales of bras makes up roughly 35% of their total sales. There is a big change happening in the world of bras and if these product managers don’t react to it quickly by making changes to their product development definition, then they may find themselves with way too much time on their hands.

The World Of Bras Is Changing

Once again, as a man I basically thought that bras were bras. Sure, they came in different colors and different styles; however, I thought that the basic design of the things had been worked out years ago and all that was left to do was to create different styles in order to get women to buy them. Apparently I was wrong. It turns out that in the world of traditional bras, growth is starting to slow. Sales are up by less than 10% over last year. This is a big deal because in the past the bra market was growing in the teens.

So what’s going on you ask? Well, unfortunately for the Victoria’s Secret product managers their market seems to have shifted on them. Customers have changed their minds about what they want when they are shopping for a new bra. A new line of clothing has upset what used to be a stable market: “athleisure”. This change has caused a lot of changes to happen at Victoria’s Secret: they’ve changed their management, slimed down the number of bras that they offer, and started creating athleisure sections in their stores.

Victoria’s Secret operates more than 1,000 stores which are generally located in malls. They’ve had to make changes to these stores to deal with the arrival of the athleisure trend. What women appear to be wanting are bralettes: bras that do not have any underwire or padding. Traditionally Victoria’s Secret sold padded-bras at prices that ranged up to US$60. However, in the new world of athleisure, bralettes they are finding that their younger customers now want more authentic marketing, garments that more closely resemble crop tops, simple sizing, and prices that are around US$20.

How Victoria’s Secret Is Changing To Deal With The New World

The reason that the Victoria’s Secret product managers are having to make changes is because their customer’s tastes are changing. Their customers are telling them that they want a more natural look. The new garments are popular: a survey revealed that 41% of millennial females had worn a sports bra in the last 7 days. This was in contrast with 21% of the non-millennials.

The motivation to purchase bralettes is being driven by comfort. Comfort is becoming a key theme in the world of fashion and the people who are buying bras are looking for both physical and personal comfort. This shift in what customers are looking for in bras has opened the door to rivals. Other vendors such as American Eagle Outfitters have seized the new niche and have seen their sales soar. Online retailers are also taking advantage of the new consumer needs.

The Victoria’s Secret product managers are currently in a very strong position. Victoria’s Secret currently controls more than 60% of the woman’s intimate apparel market and has annual sales of US$7.67B which would look good on anyone’s product manager resume. They have had increasing sales for the past six years. The problem that the product managers now have to solve is that their marketing messages are not connecting with their target customers. Changes will have to be made in order to once again capture the market for bras.

What All Of This Means For You

Although I don’t spend my days worrying about how best to sell woman’s intimate apparel, the product managers at Victoria’s Secret do because it’s part of their product manager job description. The have recently run into a problem: the number of bras that they sell has started to decrease. The reason for this change is that their customers have decided that they prefer the athleisure fashion trend.

This new fashion style has introduced the bralette which allows its wearer to be more comfortable because of the lack of underwires and padding. Customer’s desire to be comfortable instead of desiring to look like a fashion model is what is causing Victoria’s Secret’s sales to drop. The Victoria’s Secret product managers are in a very strong position and control a great deal of the market, but this change in what their customers are looking for means that opportunities are now opening up for their competitors.

The Victoria’s Secret product managers are going to have to react to their customer’s changing tastes. What has worked for them in the past, traditional bras, appears to not be well-suited for the future. They are gong to have to modify their product line to include more bralettes and then change their stores to highlight their new product lines. This can all be done, but they need to move quickly before their competition runs away with the market for bras.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that Victoria’s Secret should continue to sell traditional bras or should they switch completely to bralettes>

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Over at Pepsi the product managers are facing a bit of a problem. In the U.S. the amount of cola that is being drunk is currently at a three decade low point. What appears to be happening is that their customers are changing their drinking preferences and are now starting to select bottled water and other non-cola beverages. What this means for the Pepsi product managers is that they are going to have to change their product development definition and find a way to get people interested in cola once again. Looks like it’s time to go old school…