Victoria’s Secret in Plus Sizes?

4 Feb

Free to Be You and Me?

Recently a petition has surfaced asking Victoria’s Secret, lingerie giant, to expand their product lines to include plus sizes. The petition, started by a plus size woman, has garnered attention online and across the air waves, but the questions that beg to be answered are:

1.  Does Victoria’s Secret have an obligation to sell plus size lingerie and clothing?

2 – Are they being discriminatory – one of the petition’s main points – or missing a business opportunity – the petition’s seemingly second main point by only selling standard sized merchandise? 

Let’s examine Victoria’s Secret obligation to market and sell a plus size line.

As long as free enterprise exists in North America, businesses have every right to control their product lines as they see fit.  Victoria’s Secret already dominates a majority of lingerie sales – with sales reaching 6.6 billion last year alone. Based on these numbers and the current price of Victoria Secret’s stock, it would seem that Victoria’s Secret is quite happily reaching and meeting the needs of millions of happy customers and shareholders.

So, back to the questions:

Are they obligated to sell to plus size women?
Are they being cruel and exclusionary if they don’t?

No, and here’s why.

As a business, they are meeting and possibly exceeding their current business goals, which only includes standard sizes. It isn’t personal, it’s business.   

Are they hurting their bottom line by not expanding and marketing larger sizes?

The free market is dominated by a set of economic rules. The first being there’s a cost to every benefit. A cost-benefit analysis is pretty standard when a company is determining whether to expand or redirect merchandise. I’m sure that Victoria’s Secret – a chain owned by the same company that used to own Lane Bryant – has examined the costs and benefits of offering plus sizes and has so far decided it’s not in their best interest….at this time.

At the end of the day, criticizing Victoria’s Secrets’ business decision not to offer larger sizes makes just as much sense as standard size women criticizing Lane Bryant in the USA for not offering styles in size 0 or size 1.

Businesses fill niches.  A business cannot and should not be expected to be everything to everyone. Plus size women have a myriad of fashion options such as clothing for fuller figures and plus size lingerie today that did not exist even 15 years ago thanks to specialty stores and the Internet.  

While there is still a long long way to go in terms of society’s acceptance of alternate beauty standards, taking issue with Victoria’s Secret for only offering standard sizes really isn’t one of them is it?   Their “Perfect Body” campaign – now that’s another thing!

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