This year set a record low for Victoria’s Secret. The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, hyped for its campy setting, angel wings, and gorgeous ladies strutting in the brand’s lingerie, attracted only 3.3 million viewers this time around, the numbers striking two million less than the 2017 runway’s. It is the lowest since 2001, which is when the fashion show became an anticipated program during the holidays. The recent show replaced last year’s record, which was then the lowest in its 22-year run.
The show, shot a month earlier in New York, was aired on ABC on December 2. Besides the go-to Victoria’s Secret Angels and social media-famous Kendall Jenner, Gigi and Bella Hadid, rising models from different continents also walked the VS runway clad in shimmery underthings, elaborate headdresses, and bedazzled wings. Fan favorite Adriana Lima marked the 2018 show as her last walk, retiring her Angel title after 19 years. The event was filled with musical guests as well, with the likes of Bebe Rexha, Halsey, Rita Ora, The Chainsmokers, Kelsea Ballerini, Shawn Mendes and the Struts helping set the show’s tone. The usual attractions were there, and the inclusion of the artists was expected to draw a TV crowd, so where did it go wrong?
The low ratings could be attributed to a number of things. For one, the show migrated from CBS to ABC this year. Although it was first broadcast on the latter, it stuck by CBS for years until it received last year’s poor numbers. The move was made to improve viewership, which we certainly did not witness this year. The season is also typically not the most exciting for television, and maybe airing the show on a Sunday instead of the usual Tuesday did not help. It wasn’t a complete failure for ABC though, as the special was still better in numbers than The Alec Baldwin Show, the program that formerly occupied the 10 p.m. schedule. Good for the network, but perhaps not so much for the lingerie brand.
The ratings for the show have been going down in the last five years, and viewers decreased by half in just a matter of two. In 2016, the fashion show recorded 7.36 million people tuning in, which makes this year’s stats slightly worrying. Victoria’s Secret isn’t only losing its audience, it is also losing its customers. Even though it remains a market leader among lingerie brands, others are closing in in numbers; profits are sliding and the company is having difficulties clearing its inventory even with significant discounts. Its brand image is also taking a hit, especially in the aftermath of Chief Marketing Officer Ed Razek’s insensitive comments in an interview with Vogue last month regarding gender and body inclusivity. The article indicated the brand’s unwillingness to diversify so that it can stay true to a certain fantasy.
The brand recently went through changes, perhaps as a means to rectify the situation. Victoria’s Secret just announced that it will begin selling swimwear again, and with someone new at its helm, more developments may be underway. We have yet to see how these will improve things for the show or the label as a whole, but actions have to be done lest Victoria’s Secret slide into irrelevance. Despite Razek claiming the show to be its most ambitious as of yet, others say that the brand is increasingly becoming out of touch with the current landscape; what once was a winner formula has already become old and boring that the brand still resorts to in order to sell.
Image credits: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images, Victoria’s Secret, Timur Emek, Getty Images, Noam Galai, Ken Wolter, Neal Haynes for USA Today