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Will "Pink" Give Victoria's Secret a Miraculous Lift?


When most retailers chase growth, they land in a market where they don't belong. Not so with Limited Brands' new push for Pink.

Victoria's Secret (LTD) opened its first premier "Pink" shop in Manhattan on Saturday, opening its doors to hundreds of shoppers eager for a cupcake, a lollipop, and a free Pink NYC tank top. But for Limited Brands investors, the opening promises more tangible rewards: a clear delineation between the original Victoria's Secret and the upstart Pink, a change that ought to rescue a drifting stock and usher in stronger returns.

Over-Powered By Pink

From its racy runway shows to infamously revealing catalogues, Victoria's Secret has made its sexy brand a global icon. But in recent years, the mature, yet tastefully seductive merchandise that made the store famous has been hidden behind hot pink, yellow, and bright blue sweats. Luxurious silk panties have taken a backseat to youthful cotton underwear. And lacy bras have been lost among sporty, polka-dotted ones.

In other words, Victoria's Secret was drowning in a sea of "Pink," the spin-off brand launched in 2004 to target a high school and college audience.

To be sure, the Pink concept was an immediate and much needed success; Victoria's Secret needed some oomph to propel growth. When Pink came along, it offered mother-approved, age-appropriate lingerie and loungewear from a well-known brand. It was a brilliant move, allowing Victoria's Secret to establish a "gateway" brand that would capture loyal customers at an early age.

But problems emerged when, in recent years, the flashier Pink products began stealing the attention of execs at parent Limited Brands. As marketing minds turned their attention to mass slumber parties and social media marketing strategies on Facebook and Twitter, the Pink brand quickly gained popularity while Victoria Secret's core, traditional line got lost amid the hoopla.

The result? Victoria's Secret stores soon showed signs of an identity crisis. Today, many store layouts display mass confusion. Older loyal customers can't seem to find the Victoria's Secret they know and love. They're often turned off in the doorway of the store where giggling teenyboppers browse selections of bright colored flip-flops to match an "I love boys" tee.

Victoria's Search Party

Floundering sales encouraged management to begin soul searching. They discovered that their brand had split into two polarized looks. One was too sexy. One was too youthful. Neither represented the sweet spot -- a perfect mix of sexy, elegant, and practical -- that had made the original brand so wildly successful in the first place.

For nearly two years now, the company has been working toward regaining its identity as an ultra-feminine lingerie brand. The results have yet to prove promising, hindered by the deep recession.
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