The Battle of the Knickers: When Vicky Trumped Freddy

Victoria’s Secret, a global intimates business created by Roy Raymond in 1977 is undoubtedly a household name across the world. Frederick’s of Hollywood, which made its break in the industry years earlier, is… well, have you heard of them?

The story behind the apparel chains divide is one of pure marketing prowess as Fashion Industry Broadcast’s Michelle Ives reports.


Old school VS…

As a hint towards the numbers of each respective brand and the wild difference between them, here’s a few stats for you. The U.S. lingerie industry was valued at over $13 billion dollars last year, according to research firm IBIS World, and of that, Frederick’s market share came in at less than 1%. Victoria’s Secret made no secret of its whopping 41.3%.

So for two brands that sell almost identical stock, where is the disparity and more pressingly, why?

A model walks the runway during the Frederick's of Hollywood Spring 2008 fashion show in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. Image Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles.
A model walks the runway during the Frederick’s of Hollywood Spring 2008 fashion show in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. Image Credit: AP Photo/Matt Sayles.

According to Brittany Carter, an industry analyst at IBIS, it boils down to how they have marketed what they are selling. “Frederick’s is appealing to a very small segment of younger women. They’re essentially selling sex, whereas Victoria’s Secret is selling more of a lifestyle.” Arguably, whilst this lifestyle is still about sex at its core, it actually pertains more to the notion of free sexuality.

And think about it: Victoria’s Secret is often full of men shopping for their wives or girlfriends and mothers shopping for their daughters, rather than people shopping for themselves (although with sales at the company coming in at $7.2 billion per annum, they are definitely there too). Victoria’s Secret has adapted to the changes in the sex industry by capitalising on the concept of sexual intimacy as a lifestyle, not just a thing that people do.

And obviously having gorgeous women flaunt their sickeningly lovely bodies on a runway each and every year doesn’t hurt either.

This has come to the grave detriment of Fredericks, which is now viably so non-existent it is working with liquidators to close 31 of its 93 stories. Richard Jaffe, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co says that the inconsistency within the company over the years has only added to Frederick’s down-fall.

“[They’ve] seen changes in leadership, ownership and direction that are not only tough on the brand but tough on the consumer” and these include a variety of makeshift ventures to re-brand the company, including licensing its name to Halloween costumes. When people aren’t sure what you are doing, they aren’t going to invest.

So, when in competition with a brand that has expertly maintained its position as a quality lingerie business, where can Freddie’s possibly go next? According to the company’s CEO Bill Soncini, the company isn’t quite defeated yet, with plans to “re-engineer”. How they plan to do this remains to be seen, but one thing is for sure: Fred, don’t scrimp on your marketing department.


Love everything VS? You can read all about the history of Victoria Secret in Masters of Fashion Volume 40, coming soon to Fashion Industry Broadcast via Amazon and Google Play.