L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, announced on Thursday that its annual lingerie fashion show will be canceled this year amid decreased viewership and multiple controversies.
“We think it’s important to evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret,” L Brands Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said during an earnings call. “We will be communicating to customers, but nothing similar in magnitude to the fashion show.”
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show — which made its broadcast debut on ABC in 2001, moved to CBS and went back to ABC — had its lowest Nielsen ratings ever in 2018, according to Entertainment Weekly. Only 3.27 million people were watching.
In May, L Brands CEO Leslie Wexner announced in a memo that the fashion show would no longer air on TV. “We have decided to re-think the traditional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” Wexner said, according to The New York Times. “Going forward we don’t believe network television is the right fit.”
Victoria’s Secret sales have dropped, and L Brands’ shares have been down 28 percent this year, according to the New York Post.
Ratings and sales have not been the lingerie giant’s only concerns; Victoria’s Secret also has been struggling through a number of weighty controversies.
Wexner has been intensely criticized for his connections with convicted sex offender and financier Jerry Epstein, who was found dead after being arrested in July for allegedly sex trafficking underage girls.
He reportedly posed as a Victoria’s Secret model recruiter and attacked models under that guise.
Epstein was a personal adviser for Wexner’s finances, philanthropy and private life, according to a July 25 report in The Times. Wexner cut ties with Epstein in 2007 when he found out Epstein had “misappropriated vast sums of money” from him.
The sum was more than $46 million of Wexner’s personal wealth, according to the New York Post. Wexner’s connections with Epstein are still under investigation.
“Being taken advantage of by someone who was so sick, so cunning, so depraved, is something that I’m embarrassed I was even close to. But that is in the past,” Wexner said in a presentation to investors in September, according to Bloomberg.
“Everyone has to feel enormous regret from the advantage that was taken of so many young women,” he said. “That’s just unexplainable, abhorrent behavior and clearly something we all would condemn.”
Victoria’s Secret, known for its popular lingerie and provocative advertisements, was already under criticism in light of the #MeToo movement.
It came under more fire from the left when its chief marketing officer, Ed Razek, told Vogue in an interview last year that Victoria’s Secret shouldn’t have “transsexuals” or plus-size models in the fashion show. He later apologized for being “insensitive.”
Razek retired in August, not long after the company hired its first transgender model.
According to the Post, neither L Brands nor Victoria’s Secret indicated whether the show was canceled only for this year or permanently.
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