Victoria's Secret was started in San Francisco, California, in 1977 by Stanford Graduate School of Business alumnus Roy Raymond, who felt embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife in a department store environment. He opened the first store at Stanford Shopping Center, and quickly followed it with a mail-order catalog and three other stores. The stores were meant to create a comfortable environment for men, with wood-paneled walls, Victorian details and helpful sales staff. Instead of racks of bras and panties in every size, there were single styles, paired together and mounted on the wall in frames. Men could browse for styles for women and sales staff would help estimate the appropriate size, pulling from inventory in the back. In 1982, after five years of operations, Roy Raymond sold the company to The Limited.
The Limited kept the personalized image of Victoria's Secret intact. Victoria's Secret was rapidly expanded into the U.S. malls throughout the 1980s. The company was able to vend a widened range of products, such as shoes, evening wear, and perfumes, with its mail catalog issued eight times annually.
By the early 1990s, Victoria's Secret had become the largest American lingerie retailer, topping one billion dollars.
On July 10, 2007, Limited Brands sold 75% of The Limited clothing chain to firm Sun Capital Partners to focus and boost sales growth on Victoria's Secret lingerie stores and Bath & Body Works units, which provided 72% of revenue in 2006 and almost all the firm's profit. There are 1,000 Victoria's Secret lingerie stores and 100 independent Victoria's Secret Beauty Stores in the US, mostly in shopping centers. It sells brassieres, panties, hosiery, cosmetics, sleepwear, and other products. Victoria's Secret mails more than 400 million of its catalogs per year. Under pressure from environmentalist groups, Victoria's Secret's parent firm and a conservation group have reached an agreement to make the lingerie retailer's catalog more environmentally friendly in 2006. The catalog will no longer be made of pulp supplied from any woodland caribou habitat range in Canada, unless it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The catalogs will also be made of 10 percent recycled paper from post-consumer waste.
Victoria's Secret is now attempting to build its image with a fairly conservative, middle-class shopper in mind, avoiding any connotations of sleaziness that lingerie might carry.
The company gained notoriety in the early 1990s after it began to use supermodels in its advertising and fashion shows. Throughout the past decade, it has turned down celebrity models and endorsements.
For men, Victoria's Secret launched a "Very Sexy For Him" set, which includes cologne and aftershave.
Victoria's Secret makes use of a rigorous customer service model, stressing upselling, frequent staff attention, and signing up customers for a store credit card that provides discounts for frequent shoppers in the way of coupons by mail and free merchandise.
Victoria's Secret Angels
Victoria's Secret Angels on a commercial for the Secret Embrace line."Victoria's Secret Angels" are the brand's most visible models and spokeswomen. The VS Angels made their début in 1999 in the fourth annual Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Daniela Pestova, Karen Mulder, Laetitia Casta, Heidi Klum, Stephanie Seymour, and Tyra Banks are among the "Angels" from the original promotion. In May 2007, the Victoria's Secret Angels, including Adriana Lima, Selita Ebanks, Alessandra Ambrosio, Izabel Goulart, and Karolina Kurkova were chosen to be part of People Magazine's annual "100 Most Beautiful People in the World" issue. On November 13, 2007, Victoria's Secret Angels became the first trademark awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 'Angels' are among the world's best-paid models.