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Coronavirus Casts Victoria’s Secret UK Into Bankruptcy

Victoria’s Secret U.K. slipped into administration on Friday, the equivalent of a bankruptcy proceeding in the U.S. Now nearly 800 employees and 25 stores are at risk.

So far the company’s U.K. employees have already been furloughed, and are expected to remain in that position pending resolution of the bankruptcy. The current plan is to find a buyer or renegotiate rent deals with landlords as Victoria’s Secret looks at options for an exit plan. The company website remains in operation and is not connected to the U.K. business.

The latest development is another hit to U.K.’s high street, which has also seen Laura Ashley and Debenhams file bankruptcy. And last month, DVF Studio, the U.K. arm of the fashion business founded by Diane von Furstenberg, also fell into administration. DVF’s Mayfair flagship store in London is now permanently closed. All fashion retailers have been hard hit by temporary store closures due to the coronavirus, or COVID-19, pandemic—and the bankruptcies won’t end here.

“If the U.K. arm of Victoria’s Secret is to be saved, it needs a new start and a major overhaul of its brand and marketing strategy,” Qing Wang, professor of marketing at U.K.’s Warwick Business School, said. “It needs to be brought up to date to reflect the values of gender equality, sustainability and diversity that appeal to to today’s shoppers and compete with brands that have overtaken it.”

Wang, a luxury brand expert, said Victoria’s Secret has been a huge success story, but also is now synonymous with sexism and objectification of women. “Being glamorous, sexy and ‘over the top’ is not a problem in itself. These characteristics define many other iconic fashion brands such as Tom Ford, Abercrombie & Fitch and Alexander McQueen,”Wang said. “As a brand, Victoria’s Secret has personality, what it lacks is substance and commitment.”

The brand’s annual fashion show, long its main communication channel and once a major pop culture event, has since contributed to its demise because, as Wang noted, it hasn’t kept pace with the “strong values of millennials and post-millennials, who should now be the company’s target customers.”