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Tickled Pink

In an online era, Victoria’s Secret’s sister store is racking up record brick-and-mortar sales. So, what’s the secret?

Over the holidays, I braved the Black Friday crowds for the first time in several years and went shopping at the Mall of Georgia, near my hometown.  I quickly regretted the decision. As it turns out, I’d rather push my stroller through the heart of Times Square.

While I waited not-so-patiently for a family member to make a purchase, I spotted a line of eager young women chatting excitedly. Oooh, I thought: “Maybe there’s a celebrity appearance! Or, a giveaway!”

Nope. As it turns out, those women were simply waiting to enter Pink, Victoria’s Secret’s casual spin-off for co-eds.

So I wasn’t surprised to learn that L Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, Pink and Bath & Body Works, posted record earnings for its third quarter and expects the same for its fourth. (Given that line at the Mall of Georgia, it’s probably safe to say mission accomplished.) What’s more, the company’s chairman and CEO Leslie H. Wexner told investors that the success of the company depends on brick-and-mortar, not e-commerce.

It’s a statement that’s completely at odds with last year’s biggest Black Friday takeaway—that online e-commerce has at last conquered brick-and-mortar. (Online surpassed in-store sales for the first time.) 

What makes Pink an exception? I interrogated our new Associate Editor Emily Beckman, who worked as a campus representative for the brand. As it turns out, the retailer has perfected the art of utilizing social media and old-fashioned word-of-mouth to drive shoppers to its stores. Pink tasks its campus reps—at 99 colleges across America—with hiring street teams, updating campus-specific Facebook pages, hosting events, launching giveaways and distributing promotional materials. The most successful reps are treated to a trip to the company’s headquarters and a day of pampering.

It’s a perfect strategy for children’s retailers, too. Local moms often find each other through Facebook groups. Why not enact a rep to host events, tag your store on social media and help expand your reach?

Of course, many of today’s savvy children’s retailers are already utilizing Pink’s methods on a smaller scale. In “Shop Talk” on p. 40, Zhenya Kuhne reveals how she uses Instagram to encourage customers to stop by Sugar Snap Pea, her children’s shop in Charleston, S.C. She doesn’t see the Internet as a challenge to her brick-and-mortar business, but as a way to enhance the overall experience.

At the heart of that experience is the shop’s sophisticated  design and friendly customer service. “They’re gravitating to the store to actually feel and touch an item, and to be educated about our product,” she explains. Same goes for Pink. Even the most outgoing campus reps and stellar social media efforts wouldn’t be able to boost brick-and-mortar sales if Pink’s demographic didn’t love stopping by in person. But as both Beckman and Wexner point out, they do.

So if the gloomy news from Black Friday has you feeling blue, may I suggest you think Pink?

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