Victoria’s Secret Won’t Keep Secret Anymore

Times Staff Writer

Victoria’s Secret has let the cat out of the bag.

The Limited’s successful lingerie business--which has grown to 353 stores nationwide--is about to launch its first national advertising campaign, with a 10-page glossy insert in magazines hitting the stands next month.

Developed by the company and FCB/Leber Katz Partners in New York, the advertising will appear in November issues of Elle, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Victoria, House Beautiful, Bon Appetit, New Woman and People magazines.

Photographed primarily in Sledemere Castle in Yorkshire, England, the ad depicts a couple in romantic, but modest, situations and is meant to evoke the idea of “love in marriage,” according to Laurel Cutler, vice chairman of FCB/Leber Katz Partners.


The ad asks: “What do women really want? That’s Victoria’s Secret.” The account director, appropriately enough, is named Victoria H. Alin.

In the ad, the company will also announce its entry into the crowded toiletries and fragrance business, a line of Victoria’s Secret products with an English country garden theme that ties in with the retailer’s move toward store designs with a British look and feel.

Departure for Firm

National advertising marks a departure for Victoria’s Secret, which the Limited bought in 1982 when it consisted of a money-losing catalogue operation and four small stores.

Although it has kept a low advertising profile, the business, founded in San Francisco in 1977 by Roy L. Raymond, has boomed under the Limited’s ownership because of the strength of its catalogue, word of mouth and sporadic ads in fashion publications. By one industry analyst’s estimate, Victoria’s Secret has $340 million in annual sales. (The Limited does not disclose sales for its divisions.)

“We are of a size now at Victoria’s Secret that we are in all of the major markets in the United States,” said Alfred S. Dietzel, vice president of the Limited, a big specialty retailing company based in Columbus, Ohio. “Now, an advertising campaign makes sense.”

Dietzel said the advertising is a test. If it works for Victoria’s Secret, other Limited divisions--such as Limited and Express--might be good candidates for national ad campaigns.

Bernard Sosnick, an analyst with Deutsche Bank Capital in New York, said Victoria’s Secret’s growth has “probably been the fastest from start to dominance of any chain in the history of retailing.” He calls it the nation’s largest specialist in women’s lingerie and “a star in profitability.”

Larger Stores

Lately, the company has revamped the look of its stores. About 50 of them now have “an English feel,” Dietzel said. The stores also sell some menswear and sheets, pillow cases and towels.

The stores, which once averaged about 1,400 square feet, have been getting bigger. Sites being secured now are in the range of 4,000 to 4,500 square feet.

Meanwhile, the Victoria’s Secret catalogue has been growing even faster than the company as a whole, Sosnick said. The mail-order business is run separately and carries some sportswear and other merchandise not available in the stores.

Sosnick expects that the chain will end the year with as many as 395 stores, with sales “a tad under $500 million.”