After months of speculation, Victoria’s Secret executives confirmed that the 2019 fashion show is canceled.
Stuart B. Burgdoerfer, chief financial officer and executive vice president of L Brands (the parent company of Victoria’s Secret) announced the news during a conference call with analysts on Thursday morning, as first reported by Women’s Wear Daily.
“There will be more to come as that continues to get evaluated,” Burgdoerfer said. “We recognize and appreciate that the communication of the brand, the offerings, the emotional content of Victoria’s Secret is obviously an important thing.”
“[The show] was a very important part of the brand building of this business and was an important aspect of the brand and a remarkable marketing achievement,” he continued. “And with that said, we’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand and best communicate that to customers and that’s among the things that [Victoria’s Secret chief executive officer] John [Mehas] is focused on.”
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show launched in 1995 and soon became synonymous with supermodels like Naomi Campbell, Gisele Bundchen and Miranda Kerr hitting the runway in elaborate lingerie, wings and sleepwear designs year after year. It was first broadcasted on television in 2001 on ABC. The event was then broadcasted on CBS from 2002 to 2017, returning to ABC last year.
While Burgdoerfer says the brand will still be “communicating to customers,” he maintained that right now any immediate marketing plans are not “similar in magnitude to the fashion show.”
“But you can be sure we’ll be communicating with customers through lots of vehicles including social media and various, more current platforms,” he concluded.
Despite it’s longevity, the company has seen a steady decline in sales since 2016, and according to CNBC, the 2018 fashion show had the worst ratings in the history of the show’s broadcast.
“As timing over the years shifted over the years in terms of the airing the fashion show, did we see specific material impact in terms of a short-term sales response to the airing of the fashion show? As a general matter, the answer to that question is no,” Burgdoerfer said, according to Fortune.
In May, CNBC reported that a memo was sent to Victoria’s Secret employees by Les Wexler, the CEO of L Brands (the parent company of the brand), which stated that network television wasn’t the “right fit” for the annual runway show anymore.
“Fashion is a business of change. We must evolve and change to grow. With that in mind, we have decided to re-think the traditional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” the memo read, according to CNBC, which obtained a copy. “In 2019 and beyond, we’re focusing on developing exciting and dynamic content and a kind of event — delivered to our customers on platforms that she’s glued to…and in ways that will push the boundaries in the global digital age.”
The brand’s annual fashion has also been at the center of controversy for not embracing models of all sizes and backgrounds on its runway.
“Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special,” Razek told the magazine.
He apologized quickly after: “My remark regarding the inclusion of transgender models in the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show came across as insensitive. I apologize,” Razek said. “To be clear, we absolutely would cast a transgender model for the show. We’ve had transgender models come to casting… And like many others, they didn’t make it…But it was never about gender. I admire and respect their journey to embrace who they really are.”
In 2018, Victoria’s Secret made an effort to expand diversity on the runway by casting 19 models of color, including Winnie Harlow, the first model with vitiligo, to walk in the show. Ed Razek stepped down from his post in August 2019.