Sales of the wireless, unstructured and mostly unpadded bras have exploded in recent seasons, as celebs like the Kardashian sisters have strapped them on to take sexy selfies and Hollywood stars like Charlize Theron have exposed them at red carpet events.
Yet this week, Victoria’s Secret signaled that bralettes have been a d-d-disaster for the chain, even as rivals like Urban Outfitters, Target, Forever 21 and even Costco cash in on the craze.
Instead, Victoria’s Secret — which for decades has minted a fortune with wire-and-cup innovations like the push-up bra — said it will stubbornly stick to its bread-and-butter while it scales back bralettes to below 5 percent of its product mix.
“Bralette’s trend up and down and we’ll have them,” Victoria’s Secret Chief Executive Jan Singer told analysts on a conference call. “But we make constructed bras best and anyone can make bralettes. We get paid for construction.”
Wall Street wasn’t impressed. Shares of Victoria’s Secret parent, L Brands, lost 3.6 percent on Thursday to close at $37.55 as the bra-pushing behemoth slashed its profit outlook.
Now, some on Wall Street are concerned about the chain’s blasé take on bralettes.Shares of L Brands have tumbled more than 50 percent over the past year as the company has cast off its swimwear and clothing lines.
“Victoria’s Secret was one of the last to pick up this trend, so by the time they started to offer them, people weren’t willing to switch to Victoria’s Secret,” said Cora Harrington, founder and editor of The Lingerie Addict Web site.
Others fret that Victoria’s Secret is simply out of touch with its customers, relying on a marketing campaign that emphasizes sex appeal and Victoria’s Secret Angels rather than ordinary women.
Rivals like American Eagle Outfitters’ Aerie brand, meanwhile, have had success with the latter approach, according to experts.
“Maybe Victoria’s Secret is losing touch with consumers and what they want, focusing only at their bottom line,” said Luis Paredes, publisher The Lingerie Journal. “The bralette has become a style that people enjoy and has become a staple.”
Indeed, Victoria’s Secret’s biggest beef with bralettes may be that they typically go for between $25 and $30 — compared to $50 for many of its wire-and-cup designs.
The company will unveil new styles of bras in September, but its so-called T-shirt bra that came out in July was a bust, according to industry insiders.
“The T-shirt bra was a flop that moved to the back of the store within a week and a half,” said Gabriella Santaniello, president of A Line Partners, a retail consulting firm.