The CEO of Victoria's Secret compared its 'terrible' early loungewear to a 'lousy' McDonald's Filet-O-Fish

filet o fishRobson90/Shutterstock

  • The boss of Victoria's Secret has compared its "terrible" early loungewear to a "lousy" McDonald's Filet-O-Fish.
  • L Brands CEO Les Wexner said the lingerie giant correctly called the shift in consumer demand towards sweatpants and pajamas, but addressed it poorly.
  • He compared it to McDonald's adding Filet-O-Fish to its menu in response to people eating less meat, but failing to make a 'damn fish sandwich.'
  • Watch L Brands trade live.

The boss of Victoria's Secret has compared its initial foray into loungewear to McDonald's launching a "lousy" Filet-O-Fish.

Les Wexner - CEO of L Brands, the lingerie giant's parent company - says the brand spotted the change in consumer tastes and quit the swimwear business in 2016 to address it. (Wexner has faced criticism for his connections to Jeffrey Epstein.)

Soaring demand for sweatpants and pajamas suggests it was the right decision, he added, but Victoria's Secret missed the mark with its initial assortment.

"One of the third rails that I stepped on and get roundly criticized for was when we went out of the swim business," Wexner said. "It may have been a mistake," he continued, but "the lounge, sleep, casual lingerie business was a much bigger opportunity."

The segment is now three to four times the size of the brand's swimsuit business at its peak, he added.

Victoria's Secret correctly called the shift in demand, but made a "terrible" attempt to address it, Wexner said. He compared it to McDonald's launching "lousy" fish sandwiches in response to people eating less meat. "That would be a good thing, to shift the menu, except they couldn't make a damn fish sandwich."

The brand's comparable sales dropped 6% in the first half, after sliding 2% last financial year and 8% in 2017, its full-year earnings show. Wexner told analysts a lack of leadership and curiosity was a key driver of the brand's challenges in recent years.

"That's just the bane of all retail businesses," he said. "It's so hard to find winners, and then when you find them, you want to exploit them. And then you start looking in the rearview mirror because hindsight is perfect. And that next fashion cycle, that next idea is always risky, and it may be wrong."

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