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We went shopping at Victoria's Secret, Pink, and Aerie and saw the huge divide in the lingerie market firsthand

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Our first stop was at a Victoria's Secret store in Manhattan's busy Soho shopping district.

Our first stop was at a Victoria's Secret store in Manhattan's busy Soho shopping district.
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Our first impressions were pretty good. There was a lot of inventory on display, but it was neatly laid out.

Our first impressions were pretty good. There was a lot of inventory on display, but it was neatly laid out.

There were also no sale signs. Wall Street has been very critical of discounting in recent years. One analyst said he believed Victoria's Secret's sister brand Pink was on the "precipice of collapse," because of the level of promotions being run there.

In a recent call with investors, CFO Stuart Burgdoerfer addressed this but said that it will "take a little bit of time" to reduce promotional levels.

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As well as scaling back on promotions, Burgdoerfer said in the company's most recent earnings call that it is looking at all aspects of the brand's marketing. "We are taking a fresh, hard look at everything," he said. "Everything is on the table."

As well as scaling back on promotions, Burgdoerfer said in the company's most recent earnings call that it is looking at all aspects of the brand's marketing. "We are taking a fresh, hard look at everything," he said. "Everything is on the table."

Victoria's Secret has frequently been criticized for its overtly sexual in-store ads and its racy runway shows, especially in the wake of #MeToo.

Read more: These photos of Victoria's Secret commercials over the years reveal why the store is struggling in the #MeToo era

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But the racy images are still highly visible in its stores ...

But the racy images are still highly visible in its stores ...
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Analysts have also criticized Victoria's Secret for its store design, which hasn't evolved.

Analysts have also criticized Victoria's Secret for its store design, which hasn't evolved.
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"Its overt sexuality ... and its dark and moody stores are completely out of step with the mood of most modern consumers," Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, wrote in a note to clients in November.

"Its overt sexuality ... and its dark and moody stores are completely out of step with the mood of most modern consumers," Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, wrote in a note to clients in November.
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Next, we headed to Pink, the teen-focused brand that is also owned by L Brands.

Next, we headed to Pink, the teen-focused brand that is also owned by L Brands.

Pink and Victoria's Secret often share store locations. This was a standalone location, however, that opened in 2010 and is just a block away from the Victoria's Secret we visited.

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The lighting, music, and display style is completely different at this teen-focused brand.

The lighting, music, and display style is completely different at this teen-focused brand.
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Pink was once a sweet spot for Victoria's Secret, but in recent years it has also come under pressure and resorted to heavy discounting.

Pink was once a sweet spot for Victoria's Secret, but in recent years it has also come under pressure and resorted to heavy discounting.

There were no sale signs on display during our visit, but many of the items were being offered at a discount in a bundle package.

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There was a ton of neon clothing ...

There was a ton of neon clothing ...
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... and an overwhelming amount of items with logos.

... and an overwhelming amount of items with logos.
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There were logos everywhere.

There were logos everywhere.
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Our last visit was to American Eagle's Aerie brand.

Our last visit was to American Eagle's Aerie brand.

While Aerie is also often located in an American Eagle store, this was a standalone location that opened in 2018.

This store felt considerably more modern than the first two, which was unsurprising given that it opened more recently.

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As we walked in, we spotted a large section devoted to swimwear. This is a category that Victoria's Secret dropped in 2016 but will relaunch later this spring.

As we walked in, we spotted a large section devoted to swimwear. This is a category that Victoria's Secret dropped in 2016 but will relaunch later this spring.
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Aerie has made women's empowerment and body positivity the focal part of its marketing campaign. Analysts say this is behind its explosive success.

Aerie has made women's empowerment and body positivity the focal part of its marketing campaign. Analysts say this is behind its explosive success.

Earlier this month, American Eagle reported a 23% increase in same-store sales for Aerie during the fourth quarter, marking the brand's 17th consecutive quarter of double-digit positive growth.

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Empowering images are scattered all around the store.

Empowering images are scattered all around the store.
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In 2014, Aerie committed to not retouching any of its images and launched a campaign called #AerieReal. This has a strong presence in the store.

In 2014, Aerie committed to not retouching any of its images and launched a campaign called #AerieReal. This has a strong presence in the store.
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Overall, the styles seemed a lot more relaxed at Aerie ...

Overall, the styles seemed a lot more relaxed at Aerie ...
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... and the marketing wasn't remotely racy.

... and the marketing wasn't remotely racy.
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Our verdict:

Our verdict:

While Aerie had the advantage of being a newer store, the shopping experience was far superior thanks to its modern and bright design and uplifting marketing campaign.

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