The announcement recently that Victoria’s Secret was one of several American retailers closing stores in Canada came as no surprise to me. The United States will take the brunt of the downsizing with 53 store closings and three in Canada. While I’ll miss their bright pink window displays in suburban malls and mourn the loss of jobs for hundreds of staff, I’m afraid I must accept part of the blame for their closing because— I. Never. Shop. There. That’s what happens when they target only skinny teens.
The first time I bought something from Victoria’s Secret was nearly forty years ago, before the brand was available in Canada. They had a great mail order catalogue (in the days before on-line shopping) which a friend brought back from a skiing weekend in Ellicottville, N.Y. I fell in love with a moderately priced sweatshirt and leggings combo which I immediately ordered by phone. It took a couple of weeks to arrive and when it did, I was shocked at how much the items ultimately cost me in Canadian dollars. Added to the catalogue price was the conversion from American to Canadian dollars (around 35% at the time), import duties, shipping costs for out-of-country and, of course, local sales taxes in Canada, ultimately more than doubling the original cost. That was pretty much my first and last experience with Victoria’s Secret.
Then, a few years later, to our great amazement and delight, it was announced that Victoria’s Secret was opening retail stores in Canada. My excitement turned to disappointment when it became evident that the stores featured mainly brothel-wear and dorm-wear, with none of the lovely leisurewear I’d grown to love in their mail order catalogues. Nothing in the stores appealed to this boomer broad although I regularly perused their stock foraging for something I might like. No luck. The quality was dubious, the lace embellishments were itch-inducing and the sizes unreliable. Compounding the lack of appeal in their merchandise was their total disregard for anyone who wasn’t stick thin and pubescent. It seems to me they totally opted for form over function, eliminating a huge margin of consumers. Their pretty pink window displays were seductive and price points manageable but overall they offered nothing that appealed to me and my demographic. Trying to fit their Barbie doll lingerie on this boomer body would have involved extensive and expensive surgical intervention.
Boomer gals were probably the first generation that sported sexy, feminine lingerie on a daily basis that wasn’t constructed of sturdy white cotton that our mothers wore in the fifties. We embraced demi-bras, bikini panties and all the colours, lace trimmings, see-through fabrics and modern styles generated by the sexual revolution. Back then we had cute, tight little bottoms, firm boobs located where they originally sprouted and flat stomachs. Cellulite was still in the far-distant future. For a brief period in our lives when we were young and compact we could wear the tiny little shreds of lace Victoria’s Secret marketed.
Sadly, no lingerie retailer has followed aging boomer preferences since which has left a serious gap in the supply market. The consumer market is not made up entirely of millennials. I’m constantly bemoaning the lack of feminine, sexy nightgowns for our age group. We’re forced to choose between frumpy granny gowns with white cotton eyelet trim in bunny or teddy bear prints or strappy little wisps of nylon that do nothing to flatter our boomer waistlines and saggy knees. What’s a boomer gal to do?
There is one retailer in the United States called Soma, affiliated with the Chico’s and White House Black Market brand, that has wonderful lingerie and loungewear that’s comfortable and appropriate for baby boomer women. Hopefully, they too will join their partners in opening Canadian retail outlets. Whenever I’m in the States, I load up but even Soma rarely has the kind of nightgowns I like. I’m just not a pyjama person. I keep emailing their customer service people and answering on-line customer surveys but feminine, attractive nightgowns that flatter our body shapes and still allow those hot flashes to vent are harder to find than good calorie-free wine. Boomers will also remember a couple of decades ago when Britain’s Marks & Spencer still had retail stores in Canada. They had the best knickers and bras ever and we do miss them.
Finding comfortable, feminine lingerie is a tricky business. The Hudson’s Bay Company stores have extensive lingerie departments that offer an excellent choice but sizes and individual preferences require a lot of sleuthing to find exactly what works for each of us. It’s like shopping for jeans—we have to try on and test drive dozens of pairs before we find something that works. Then, our loyalty remains firm.
The lesson for retailers here is: IGNORE US AT YOUR PERIL. The GAP is closing. Sears bit the dust. If you don’t carry what me and my boomer gal pals would buy, you have no future, plain and simple. When are retailers going to get the message? Victoria’s Secret never worked for me. What about you? What brands do you like and where do you prefer to shop for lingerie?