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Thursday, May 19, 2016

4,455 miles {florence files}

Over 4,000 miles away my family, parents, and friends are going on with their everyday lives in different time zones in a different country on a different continent.

Over 120 days away from people that contribute so much to every aspect of my life on a daily basis.

With 1 full day left until some sweet long lived reunions in Europe and 25 until some more real deal ones in America, there's something to be said for having four months abroad to yourself.

Long distance is hard, but abroad distance is a new trial in every way. There's something to be said for having something that is 100% your own. I share my hometown with my parents. I share my college with my friends, but right now, in this moment Florence is mine and only mine.

You can't always have absolutely everything in common with people you care about. You need differentiation. Something that makes you you-er than you. Something that people associate you with, that credit you with, that look up to you about.

To me it's like having a competitive advantage in a business. Without a competitive advantage your business blends into to everything else that surrounds it. If I've learned anything while being here it's that people, like businesses, need competitive advantages too.

There is nothing that forces you into being yourself more than being forced away from everything you know and are comfortable with. Especially when you put yourself into that uncomfortable situation by choice and not actually by force. There's a comforting feeling in knowing that I did this on my own and that I made it out completely fine or even better than when I began my time here.

It takes some people their whole lives to acknowledge their own adequacy, and some are never lucky enough to have that enlightening moment. I couldn't ask for anything more than to start out my 20's knowing that I am capable and enough on my own. I've known that for awhile, or rather had it in the back of my head. But as independent as I've always been, I still need that occasional kick of confidence to feel or do something a certain way.

When you're young, there's a good chance you are the only person holding yourself back. I know that I am by far the hardest person on myself. Giving yourself credit for what you do and can accomplish only happens when you throw away your crutch, security blanket, comfort zone- whatever you want to call it.

It's not selfish- it's distance. And distance can do more for you than quotes on the wall and philosophy classes.


Monday, May 2, 2016

Victoria's Secret new juicy secret

I'm sure by now you've heard about Victoria's Secret so called "swimwear shut down." L brands, the company that owns VS, announced that it will no longer be carrying swimwear after this season.

I'm not writing this to complain as a customer- I'm writing this to explain how terrible of a business decision this is. To clarify- this is a rumored decision. However, after a few hundred articles have been written, Victoria's Secret is keeping its mouth shut which means one of 2 things-

  1. It's fake and it's a PR stunt to increase sales
  2. It's actually happening and they've been advised to not discuss it yet by their mother company L Brands

I'm not saying I can see all sides of this issue. However, some things about Victoria Secret lately could have been handled better and absolutely and inexcusably should have been.

Probably the biggest problem with Victoria's Secret is that a 20 year old sophomore marketing major can decode their laziness and the true root of their so called 'problem.'

They didn't change to what the customer wanted- REAL models. 

While competitor Aerie switched to a more realistic lineup of models- Victoria's Secret didn't bat an eye. The same long legged beauties graced the website and magazines this season that have in seasons past. Nothing is wrong with a size 0 5'9 model with 32c's.. except when you only have those models in a changing market. Clothing companies are changing to be more realistic. The average woman's size in the USA is a size 8-10. When you market to people with people that aren't their size it makes it harder for a consumer to imagine what they might look like. Negative comments on Victoria Secret's site feature customer's telling the brand just that- "model doesn't show true fit" "doesn't look how I expected" "not as pictured" .. so a company worth almost 7 billion dollars is shying away from these comments to maintain an image everyone EXCEPT their company is 100% over.

It's 2016,  a size 0 or a size 22 every single woman is beautiful in her own way- and every clothing company (that is listening to its customers) has agreed with this too. This lack of change is offensive and it absolutely should be taken that way. Online boutique Dainty Hooligan was recently in the news after an employee quit for being body shammed. Customers were furious and the article went viral on sites like Refinery29 and other news sources. The consequences are real- Victoria's Secret is just too stubborn. News flash- no one likes Victoria's Secret enough to subject themselves to be body shammed to fit THEIR ideal model image. 

In this day and age you do not want your company to be labeled as a company that is not diverse. It's not a good look. *shrugs*

They produce subpar quality swimwear products in comparison to their bras/underwear. 

When you buy a Victoria's Secret bra, a $50-$100 bra, expect to have it for 5 or more years if you wash and take care of it properly. The quality is five star- top tier and consistent. With their swimwear they are absolutely lacking. Instead they focus their attention on copying brands like Triangl instead of producing quality products. They focus on quantity over quality when it comes to swimwear. Here's a suggestion- make 10 bathing suits instead of 100 different ones and make them last a lifetime.

I can see why they don't- they want people to come back and buy more. They want it to become a necessity. The problem is when your quality and price don't match up your consumer will NOT be loyal in the long run. Customer loyalty is absolutely everything!!! Which conveniently leads me to my next point...

Their pricing is all kinds of jacked up.

If a buy a $110 Triangl bikini it is neoprene and comes in a cute little bag and matte black box. It's a status symbol, it's cool, it's trendy. Victoria's Secret has SERIOUS competition in the price bracket they're trying to fit in. Hmmm buy a slightly crappy VS bikini for $100 or a trendy Triangl bikini that fits like a glove for $110.. the choice is easy and it's why VS has reportedly lost hundreds of millions in the last 2 years from their swimwear lines. 

Frankie's bikinis, Lspace swim, and Triangl are top competitors just to name a few. These companies provide unreal customer service including customized styling and attentiveness. Their customers feel like they matter- something you don't feel with overpriced VS shipping, plastic bags that might as well be sandwich bags your items arrive in, & irregular sizing. 

If they fell to a more reasonable bracket, price wise the quality would be acceptable. Stop trying to make a crappy product seem like a luxe item with subpar promotions and the whole "$44.99" psychological pricing deal- I'm over it. 

Promote wiser. 

People WAIT for the day a Victoria Secret coupon comes in the mail before stepping foot in a store. They've come to expect it. We know about the semi annual sales and that swimwear goes on sale almost always by July. Mix it up.. surprise your customers for once in your life and do something new. Overdoing the same promotions is just as bad as not promoting at all.

They have no logical solution. 

The only solution that has been rumored is that the swimwear line will come back, but only under Pink, VS's junior line, instead of Victoria Secret. Here's the issue- is your average 25 year old college student or 30 year old mom going to want to buy from a juniors line??? Maybe so. But most consumers will not cross into the pink filled, glittery, white heart ridden side of Victoria's Secret better known as "Pink" just to buy a swimsuit. It's also confusing to customers when a product disappears and then magically reappears a few months or years later. 

Be real with yourself..

VS reportedly wants to focus on their strengths: Pink, lingerie, and beauty. Wait.. I'm sorry. Do you actually think your beauty line is impressive? Sure, in most middle school locker rooms "love spell" body spray is being sprayed.. and someone almost every minute falls victim to those perfectly placed stands with cheap mini sprays and glosses. But, apart from getting excited about VS body spray as stocking stuffers, your beauty line is subpar at best. Besides perfume and lotion what do you really have to offer? 

Here are your real "strengths"... better known as opportunities now since you've successfully killed off most of your strengths.

You have a captive audience- make a move and make it impressive. 
You have a chance to change the way women look at Victoria's Secret- diversify and include women models of all sizes. Make women that didn't feel comfortable at your store before feel welcome. Close the wounds and stop pouring salt into them.
You still have control of your market- don't make the new generation hate you by not changing to the new and improved inclusive market. 

Act like the impressive company you're 'known' to be.

You can't set star studded glamorous standards and then not live up to them. Practice what you preach.

Stop getting in the press for stupid things like former model Erin Heatherton coming forward about the conditions and pretenses under which she worked as an angel. (full article here).

You have the chance to set precedent and STILL somehow control the market. You're a monopoly right now, act like you have experience in that position.

The bottom line-
THE SWIMWEAR LINE COULD 100% BE PROFITABLE. Swimwear could take VS from a 7 billion dollar company to a 10 billion dollar company with the right quality standards, pricing, and marketing. But, if they stick in their ways all their ghosts of pretty VS past are going to come out and come out fast.

Overall, this new 'problem' could have been fixed. I'm not saying it wouldn't cost time or money, but the world is changing and Victoria's Secret is not changing with it. If they aren't careful their swimwear line won't be the only thing that isn't profitable anymore- they're spinning a twisted web for themselves.

I used to love you Victoria's Secret, but your new secrets are just a little too much.

**I wrote this after reading multiple articles about VS finances, history, and future standings. I'm not claiming to be an expert or bash their brand- I truly believe and want for them to take this opportunity and really change the lingerie and swimwear markets by diversifying and rebranding their swimwear line. Giving up is just not the right answer in this instance in my personal opinion. They have the resources and finances necessary to make this problem an opportunity.