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The sports bra could be the lift Victoria's Secret needs

Victoria's Secret is hoping the sports bra will give the company the lift it really needs.

As Bloomberg's Kim Bhasinrecently reported, sports bras are a challenge for the brand. After all, they're not overtly sexy. And plenty of other brands are already dominant in the market.

Nonetheless, the lingerie brand is betting big on what's trendy — and that's sports bras, as well as bralettes, which are cup-less, padding-free bras.

Most recently, the company saw comparable sales increase by 1%, which isn't anything to sniff at since most of retail is struggling.

However, growth has been slowing, as Bhasin pointed out, and the stock has been down about 17% since the beginning of January. The company said on Thursday's earning call that the bralette and sport bras have each had "meaningful growth."

Bralettes could be troublesome for the brand. On a second-quarter earnings call on Thursday, CFO and EVP Stuart Bergdoerfer acknowledged that they retail for much less than normal, full-support bras.

They're also easy to make, as Gabriella Santaniello, analyst and founder of consulting A Line partners, told Business Insider. That means there's nothing stopping other brands like Aerie — American Eagle's lingerie brand — from selling them too.

Sport bras could be a better bet since they're harder to make, Santaniello said.

"There's no reason Victoria's Secret shouldn't be a major player in sports bras," she said.

The athleisure market is certainly saturated, but the company has made moves to compete with brands like Nike and Lululemon by launching Victoria Sport, which, as Santaniello noted, is markedly cheaper than its competitors.

Victoria's Secret's bigger issue is its image.

Santaniello said that the brand is "suffering from an image problem because they for so long held on to that fantasy image."

The rise of brands like the famously body-positive and airbrush-free Aerie, as well as Adore Me, which boasts its inclusive roster of apparel and sizes, has only emphasized just how much Victoria's Secret is lagging behind. Both of the aforementioned brands have hired Iskra Lawrence, Aerie's spokesmodel, who has become something of a poster girl for body positivity.

"I think for [Victoria's Secret], this is like a sort of a wake-up call to them — that they have to evolve their brand. They just can't continue to perpetuate this fantasy of Victoria's' Secret, and they have to update and evolve," she said.

That said, Victoria's Secret still dominates the lingerie market, and its total annual sales — nearly $7.7 billion last year — are massive compared to its competitors. At the end of the day, Santaniello said, what matters most is the brand's "core competencies" — and one of those is just a really good bra.

When Business Insider reached out to Victoria's Secret, the company pointed to its earnings transcript and prepared remarks.


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