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  |  Merchandising   |  Corporate Retail Strategy   |  Victoria’s Secret Just Went Private. Lack of Diversity and Inclusion Ring A Bell?

Victoria’s Secret Just Went Private. Lack of Diversity and Inclusion Ring A Bell?

In November 2018 I created an Instagram post about how Thirdlove placed a full ad in NY Times of a note written to Victoria’s Secret about their lack of diversity and inclusion.

Thirdlove CEO, Heidi Zak, made a bold move calling out Victoria’s Secret like this (and a genius PR move)!

It’s about time someone did.

We have the entire contents of the letter for you here!



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New York Times Sunday, full page letter from @heidi to @victoriassecret – Dear Victoria’s Secret, I was appalled when I saw the demeaning comments about women your Chief Marketing Officer, Ed Razek, made to Vogue last week. As hard as it is to believe, he said the following: “We attempted to do a television special for plus-sizes [in 2000]. No one had any interest in it, still don’t.” “It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? 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.” I’ve read and re-read the interview at least 20 times, and each time I read it I’m even angrier. How in 2018 can the CMO of any public company — let alone one that claims to be for women — make such shocking, derogatory statements? You market to men and sell a male fantasy to women. But at ThirdLove, we think beyond, as you said, a “42-minute entertainment special.” Your show may be a “fantasy” but we live in reality. Our reality is that women wear bras in real life as they go to work, breastfeed their children, play sports, care for ailing parents, and serve their country. Haven’t we moved beyond outdated ideas of femininity and gender roles? It’s time to stop telling women what makes them sexy — let us decide. We’re done with pretending certain sizes don’t exist or aren’t important enough to serve. And please stop insisting that inclusivity is a trend. I founded ThirdLove five years ago because it was time to create a better option. ThirdLove is the antithesis of Victoria’s Secret. We believe the future is building a brand for every woman, regardless of her shape, size, age, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation. This shouldn’t be seen as groundbreaking, it should be the norm. Let’s listen to women. Let’s respect their intelligence. Let’s exceed their expectations. Let women define themselves. As you said Ed, “We’re nobody’s ThirdLove, we’re their first love.” We are flattered for the mention, but let me be clear: we may not have been a woman’s first love but we will be her last. To all women everywhere, we see you, and we hear you. Your reality is enough. To each, her own. -Heidi @heidi

A post shared by ThirdLove (@thirdlove) on

Fast forward to now, February 2020, it was announced that Victoria’s Secret is going private.

L Brands confirmed it is selling the majority (55%) stake in struggling Victoria’s Secret (including the Pink brand and Victoria’s Secret Beauty) to private equity firm Sycamore Partners (chainstoreage.com).

There have been countless stories about executives at Victoria’s Secret making crude and derogatory remarks regarding why they don’t care about diversity and inclusion in their retail chain.

Personally, I haven’t shopped at Victoria’s Secret in probably over 5 years, and when I did, it was strictly for cotton undies.  I never wanted to spend time in their store and browse.  It never felt like “my kind of store”.

Especially after hearing more about what their brand is really about behind the scenes, I am happy to continue staying away!

One of my favorite lines from the article about Victoria’s Secret selling to Sycamore Partners is this:

“Ultimately, that is the price of being asleep in a market that has become more woke.” – Analyst Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail



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A post shared by DeAnna | Retail Consultant (@theaffinitygroup) on

Diversity + inclusion is treated like a trendy thing to do, talk, and advertise about right now, but it’s absolutely not a trend – it’s a part of life.

I’m sure there will be more stories like this of retailers suffering because they are purposefully and unapologetically not including diversity and inclusion in their strategies.

And I’m talking about more than just having models of different ethnicities.

If the average American woman is sized 16 – 18, brands who don’t sell these sizes – wouldn’t they now actually be niche brands, versus years ago when they were considered “for the masses” ??‍ Funny how that works?⠀⠀⠀

Inclusion and diversity is about making people feel valued for who they are.

Here are some examples of ways to incorporate diversity and inclusion in retail merchandising strategies:

– having a wide range of skin tones in stockings, tights, and undergarments
– carrying Petites and Plus sizes both in your boutique and online
– having diverse retail staff
– carrying different shoe widths
– making your boutique accessible
– the list goes on.

What is your take on Victoria’s Secret’s stance of purposefully being non-inclusive and “aspirational”?

Do you believe that it is the cause of their downfall?

I do, and that’s why I am proudly wearing a Thirdlove bra.

Comment below! ?


DeAnna McIntosh is a trend-setting, results-driven Retail Business Coach and Consultant with 16+ years of experience helping brands drive sales, conversion, productivity, innovation, and engagement (10 of those years being inside Fortune-ranked Retailers). Work directly with her via www.deannamcintosh.com.

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