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Why Victoria’s Secret has launched beauty line, not lingerie, in India

The international brand, which has gone with an online-first approach, will open three retail stores in the country in summer 2022, says Major Brands head Tushar Ved

Victoria's Secret launched its first beauty e-commerce store in India on 22 November. 
Victoria's Secret launched its first beauty e-commerce store in India on 22 November.  (Courtesy Victoria's Secret)

Much before Internet made us know-it-alls about trending international labels in the retail universe, very few brands had the power to be recognised across the globe despite not having a retail presence in smaller countries. One such brand is Victoria’s Secret, known for its lingerie and glamour. 

The brand has finally launched in India. It has been brought here by Major Brands, which retails labels such as Bath & Body Works, Aldo, Charles and Keith and La Senza in the subcontinent.

Also read: The cheering effect of lingerie

Victoria’s Secret, or VS, has launched online first, with its beauty category, focusing on perfumes and body care. And VS will have a complete experience store in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, starting next summer. 

Which city would be the first one to get the store is something Tushar Ved, president of Major Brands India Pvt Ltd, is still mulling. Ved says their team has been looking for premium retail spaces, and the 5,000 sq.ft properties will offer the full deal, including the brand PINK. Whether lingerie will also be sold online is yet to be decided.

Why launch beauty first and not lingerie, a segment the brand is most popular for? “The market is right. Also, launching a retail format full assortment (FA) store takes time. Though we have the experience with our other brands, we want to understand the customer online first and know what is selling in which cities. Data will be important to make certain decisions. We have been looking for stores, which takes time. Training (the staff) also takes time,” says Ved. 

The products will belong to a premium category and Ved expects people to spend a minimum of 4,000 (starting with perfumes). Makeup will be cheaper, though the focus will be more on body care and perfume categories. 

VS is one of the many international brands in the body care and makeup categories to have entered India recently, though many others have chosen to be hosted on third-party platforms. “We always bring our brands online and offline first, and then think about third-party platforms. This is because of the experience we want to give and understand how the market online has to be portrayed. With a third party, you are a part of a thousand brands,” explains Ved. 

The reason VS finds India a lucrative market is the huge population, and a market that is still growing, says Ved. He says that the income levels have gone up and thanks to social media, people are spending a lot on hygiene, beauty and apparel. “Women are spending more, earning more.”

Homegrown competition

Over the past few years, there's been a spurt in the number of homegrown beauty brands. Hasn't this made the Indian market tougher? Ved says there's space for everyone. “The assortment (of the kind of brands) is large, and there is space for both, Indian and foreign brands. The customer base has grown, and there is a customer for every category (be it Ayurveda, lab-led skincare, niche skincare, makeup). It’s an ocean, you decide you want to be a shark or a fish. (What will work for VS is that) the customer already knows the brand, so the trust factor is there, plus they are willing to come to the store because of the assortment (of products),” says Ved.

While 2020 has been a tough year for everyone, Ved says they saw a 10 times increase in the online market share, across all the products that come under their brands. “With all retail stores closed last year, we were able to take orders on phone, WhatsApp, and via our online partners. Today, our revenues are similar to 2019, and a lot of it has been covered up with digital sales. The market has evolved and what was our four-year plan (for digital) was covered in one year. This happened because that was the only way to do it, and we were all focused on getting it going,” says Ved. 

This also strengthened their decision to go online first for VS. All launches and promotions of the brand in India will identify with the new, more inclusive persona of VS. There has been a conscious effort from the brand after receiving flak over the years (including former models, Angels, speaking out) for their negative body image associations and non-inclusivity. An example is their recent association with tennis star Naomi Osaka and actor Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Ved insists the trust of the customer in the brand is still there.

“If I have five customers from tier II cities, they are buying three times more than what 20 customers from metro would because they don’t have those brands in their cities. They are willing to spend on a trusted brand."

Also read: How we and lingerie grew up during pandemic

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