Victoria’s Secret opens Hong Kong flagship store in Causeway Bay – and enters crowded market for fashion-forward lingerie
The lingerie giant’s huge new store comes at a time of weak sales for the US company, and competition from brands including Peach John, 6ixty8ight and Aerie that are meeting local demand for trendy, wallet-friendly designs
Get your wings ready ladies. Over the past few days, Instagram feeds have been buzzing with news of Victoria Secret’s latest store opening in Hong Kong – a 50,000 square foot (4,650 square metre) flagship in the heart of Causeway Bay in the site formerly occupied by US fast-fashion retailer Forever 21.
While this isn’t the company’s first store in Hong Kong, it will, for the first time, bring the full assortment of its covetable lingerie and womenswear to the city.
“We’ve been waiting for this!” says Ceci Li, a PR and marketing executive in her 20s. “Up until now we’ve had to shop online for anything, which was a pain.
“The style is a little bit sexy for more traditional Hong Kong girls, but nowadays more of us want that. All my friends like the brand because it’s modern and elegant with a hint of sexiness.”
The new store comes at a time when things aren’t all rosy for the US brand. In June its owner, L Brands, reported an unexpected drop in sales, which had industry insiders calling game over for the label. While the Causeway Bay outlet is likely to generate fresh interest, it contends with stiff competition from other established retailers.
That’s not to say that there isn’t an opportunity to capture a slice of the Hong Kong market. In the past few years the demand for more lingerie brands has grown considerably.
While Marks & Spencer was once considered the city’s go-to spot for lingerie, women are now looking for fashion-forward, less conservative designs, resulting in a host of trendy, wallet-friendly brands opening shop.
Asian brands including Japanese label Peach John were the first to capitalise on the opportunity, while Hong Kong brand 6ixty8ight, which opened in 2011, now has 30 stores in the city.
Italian label Intimissimi, meanwhile, opened in 2013, offering more elegant and minimalist designs that have also become popular. It now has five stores in Hong Kong, including its latest in Harbour City.
Growing demand from a younger clientele has led to a diverse range of retailers offering lingerie sub brands. Chief among these are American high-street chains such as Eagle Outfitters and Hollister.
The former launched Aerie in Hong Kong in 2014 as a shop-in-shop concept, while Hollister’s sub brand Gilly Hicks opened its first side-by-side store in the city’s Festival Walk mall in Kowloon Tong last year.
While the branding and aesthetics of these lines are different from that of Victoria’s Secret, they do appeal to a similar audience. Their preppy styles are popular with millennials – think bralettes, shorts and sleepwear – and come at more affordable prices. Their marketing campaigns are also more relatable, featuring unedited images of women of all sizes instead of just high-profile leggy supermodels.
One advantage Victoria’s Secret may have is its large PR and marketing budget, which helps it do
things such as putting on its annual Victoria’s Secret fashion show. The most recent one, which took place in Shanghai last November, gleaned plenty of media coverage – but might not necessarily drive people to shop at the new store.
“Honestly, what I see on the runway show feels entirely separate from the actual products in store,” says 31-year-old investment firm executive Jamie Wong. “Half of the items aren’t even available to buy, so it’s not necessarily going to make me want to shop there. It comes down to the product and quality.”
There’s no doubt Victoria’s Secret will bring something new to the mix, but whether it can win over local customers is to be seen.
“I really loved [the brand] when I was in high school and the first years of university because they had a good mix of cute and useful styles at a great value,” Wong says. “But at the same time, they are not investment pieces I expect to last. Now that I’m in my 30s, I am looking for styles that are sportier and less sexy, with a focus on better quality. Victoria’s Secret seems more suited towards teens and people in their early 20s.”