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Victoria's Secret bucks bra trend, hopes to lift sales by return to roots

That may seem obvious, but the multibillion-dollar lingerie industry has been headed in a different direction of late. Now, as the mother of all underwear labels tries to figure out how best to keep women coming back to its lace-filled stores, it's doubling down on the sexy bras that made it big in the first place.

 

Chief Executive Officer Jan Singer, the former Spanx head who moved to Victoria's Secret last year, outlined her plan to reinvigorate the brand for parent L Brands Inc. She faces increased competition as more clothing retailers dive into the lingerie business: Stores from hipster staple Urban Outfitters to fast-fashion powerhouse Forever 21 are trying to cash in on a craze for airy, less-fortified bras called “bralettes.” Earlier this month, shares of L Brands fell to a six-year low on weak profit forecasts and its report that same-store sales for Victoria's Secret dropped 14 percent in the latest quarter.

 

Singer announced the brand will get back to its roots. We are “in the business of fashion and sexy,” the CEO said on a conference call. She wants to know what her customers expect from products that “speak sexy” to them and “solve her sexy.” She wants to provide “choices of sexy for her.” In sports bras, she's trying to show women that “sexy is strong.”

 

That's a lot of sex, but what does it mean? Push-up bras, the signature style of Victoria's Secret, have been long touted for their cleavage-inducing superpowers, harking back to the busty bombshell image the brand flaunted for decades. The label has a push-up bra collection (and a perfume scent) dubbed “Bombshell.”

 

The push-up bra was central to the glory days of Victoria's Secret. But the brand strayed when earlier this year it began pitching bralettes, a lightweight and more comfortable version of structured bras. Victoria's Secret proclaimed bralettes were sexy, too, calling them “sexy little things.” But it didn't take, and now bralettes will make up less than 5 percent of the brand's bra assortment.

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