Secret #1: VS is Not named after the founder’s wife
It’s not tough to connect the dots on, “the ‘Secrets’ lie beneath the thin layer of fabric” but the company’s founder was married to a woman named Gaye…so, who the h*ll is Victoria?
Victoria is named after no one.
The store’s interior decor is modeled after designs from the “Victorian Era”. One could argue that it’s U.K.’s Queen Victoria, who’s reign lasted from 1837-1901 but the truth is “Victoria” is the store’s interior design …and Queen V was not at all “sexy”. (above is from 1970’s catalog)
Secret #2: founder of VS did Not come from the lingerie industry
The story begins in 1977 just out side of San Francisco in Palo Alto, CA, home of Stanford University, where a young MBA grad came up with an idea that would become the largest American retailer of women’s lingerie.
The fresh Stanford grad named Roy Raymond didn’t just walk out of the school’s gates and get the bank to lend him money for Victoria’s Secret; he did have work experience in “the real world”. He began working in marketing for company not known for anything sexy, “Vicks”.
You’ve heard of the brand; they make cold medicine products such as: NyQuil/DayQuil and my personal favorite during the flu season, good ol’ Vick’s VapoRub.
During his 8 years of working for Vicks, he married Geye.
More importantly, Roy was learning the numbers side of business and came to the following revelation:
“When I tried to buy lingerie for my wife, I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns and I always had the feeling the department store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder.”
Basically during the 1970’s, it was taboo for men to buy sexy undies…Mr. Raymond saw the untapped market: open stores that marketed to men shopping for lingerie.
Secret #3: first VS store was Not opened in downtown San Francisco, the first store opened on June 12, 1977 in the “Stanford Shopping Center” of Palo Alto, CA
In 1977 he borrowed $80,000, $40k from his parents with an additional 40k from the bank and then opened the first Victoria’s Secret.
Secret #4: VS’s original marketing plan of selling to men would lead to the company’s early “failure”
In the store’s first year, it earned a revenue of $500,000 (top-end before cost of business/taxes…so on). The following year, Roy launched the VS mail order catalog.
Here’s where the “failure” began: it was a 42-page catalog with images that only men would find sexy/attractive. By 1982, he had opened 6 stores that were bring in a total revenue of $6 million bucks.
However the stores had 2 major problems.
First off is the simple one; just because you make $6-mil. doesn’t mean you get to put that money into your bank account…
VS was running at a bottom-line loss which sent the company into bankruptcy. (that big ol’ 42-pages of print cost too much to sustain profitability)
But the bigger problem was that 70% of the shoppers where not men…aside from special occasions (V-day/birthdays)…Roy was not capitalizing on the female market.
Secret #5: Roy Raymond did not sell the company for $1 million dollars
Roy sold the company to Limited Stores Inc. for $4-mil. but he owed $3-mil. in debts…as such, he walked away with the claimed $1 million.
Secret #6: founder of Limited Stores Inc. (L Brands) is named Leslie Wexner but “Leslie” is not a woman
In 1982, a business man that goes by the nickname “Les” purchased Victoria Secret. Mr. Wexner isn’t just good, he began The Limited Brands in 1969 and would go on to become the longest running CEO of a Fortune 500 company…holding a #11 ranking in Harvard Business Review’s “Top 100 Best Performing CEOs”.
How does this relate to the story of VS’s history?
Secret #7: women have been and always will be the primary shoppers of lingerie
“Les” understood this fact and immediately implemented a marketing strategy aimed solely at the female shopper. Amazing how far common sense goes…a women knows her body and what will actually be comfortable to wear on a daily basis.
The niche occasional “special” night underwear may be debuted by VS models on the run-way but the real money is in the underwear women wear during the other 360-plus days of the year.
(photo above from ’80 catalog and shows how “Les” started marketing a “Romantic” view of the store to women)
Victoria Secret currently operates around 1,100 stores in the U.S. and Canada (also some in the U.K.), making it North America’s largest retailer of women’s intimate apparel…however, there are a few little secrets left in this story.
Secret #8: Roy Raymond committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge
If you’ve watched the movie “Social Network”, the story is simple…Roy sells company and then VS becomes a multi-billion dollar empire. That’s actually not the full story at all.
Two years after selling VS (1984), Roy took what was left of his million dollars and invested it all in an idea for selling high-end children’s products. His plan was to repeat the same business model by first opening a store in San Fran called “My Child’s Destiny” and then sell products through a catalogue to other wealthy Mommy/Daddies.
Kids, learn something here:
just because something sells for a lot, that DOES NOT MAKE YOU PROFITABLE.
As you can guess the venture left him broke…early in 1993, his wife Geye divorced him…and he was last seen alive, walking on the Golden Gate Bridge on August 26th of 1993…a few days later, the founder of VS’s body washed up on the shores near San Francisco.
Secret #9: the leading producer of lingerie is located in a major city of the “fashion world”, right?
When you think fashion cities, you probably would guess it’s located in New York or San Fran…or maybe they’ve moved their headquarters over seas to London or Paris. Nope.
This little idea is headquartered in the mid-west town of Columbus, Ohio.
Secret #10: VS has just reported a huge loss during 2016
I thought that every thing was roses. We just crossed the goal-line and scored a touchdown. Welcome to the age of less people going to physical stores…and VS has started pushing itself into the expensive high-end clothing line fashion world.
Victoria Secret, remember who you are or you may “fallllllllll”.