Gentlemen, here’s a question: What was it like the first time you entered a lingerie store all by yourself to buy something for your partner? If all the looks you got from everyone around made you feel as if you are going to be put on a sex offenders list, you aren’t alone. In fact, you are accompanied by the founder of Victoria’s Secret, the biggest lingerie brand in the world. Wonder why?
This is Branding Infinity and, today, we are going to unhook the story of Roy Raymond, the man who knew Victoria’s Secret!
After his first experience of buying lingerie for his wife, a young Roy Raymond realized one thing: Most men, including himself, would rather be fighting ISIS than be inside a lingerie store.
Roy himself commented later in an interview:
“When I tried to buy lingerie for my wife, I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns, and I always had the feeling the department store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder.”
This uncomfortable realization is perhaps the most influential moment ever for the entire species of underwear. What makes us claim this? Well, it was this experience that led Roy Raymond to have an idea that would change the face of the entire lingerie industry.
What if there was a lingerie store where men weren’t seen as perverts who couldn’t afford adult magazines? What if there was a lingerie store where men could shop for their partners without the added privilege of feeling uncomfortable?
And just like that, in 1977, Victoria’s Secret was born.
Slate’s Naomi Barr summed up his vision in 2013:
“Raymond imagined a Victorian boudoir, replete with dark wood, oriental rugs, and silk drapery. He chose the name ‘Victoria’ to evoke the propriety and respectability associated with the Victorian era; outwardly refined, Victoria’s ‘secrets’ were hidden beneath.”
Victoria’s Secret, in its initial phase, grew like nothing else. This was due to the innovative idea of creating a lingerie store that revolved around men. The store design and even the catalogs, as a result, caught the imagination of Californian men.
By the 5th year of its operation, Victoria’s Secret had expanded to three more stores and made more than $4 million in yearly revenue.
But, despite the best efforts of Raymond, it didn’t last long. In fact, the company was facing imminent bankruptcy.
In creating an entire brand that sold women lingerie revolve around men, he failed to understand that ultimately, the key demographic were still women. Ironically, he ended up creating stores where women felt as uncomfortable as he did in the stores he felt awkward in.
Eventually, the company caught the interest of Leslie Wexner, another American businessman, who quickly realized the potential of the concept and the poor implementation of the same. A year later, in 1982, Wexner bought Victoria’s Secret for $1 million. He tweaked the marketing strategy of the company and made sure that it was the women who were buying the products while men continued glaring at the magazines.
His implementation of Raymond’s vision was working and continues to work to this day. The company that was almost bankrupt in the 80s was worth $7.7 billion at its peak in 2006.
And what happened to Roy?
The incredible growth of his brainchild didn’t go down too well with him. After selling Victoria’s Secret, he went on to create another company, which again failed due to poor targeting combined with a poor location of the business. This was followed by another failed business which led to his divorce in 1993. Failure, depression, and loneliness had become constants in his life and unfortunately, in August of the same year, he jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
23 years since he died, his legacy still lives on. Despite all his failed businesses, his vision to get rid of the shame associated with buying “what men shouldn’t be buying” is something all men and in fact, women should be thankful for. On the flip side, this is an amazing story to understand how easy it is to grab and then quickly lose the opportunity of a lifetime.
It’s time that you too get rid of the shame and share this story with your network over Facebook and LinkedIn. Do you have a vision like Roy Raymond? Let us know in the comments below.
Until then, we hope you enjoyed the story of the man who knew Victoria’s Secret… Or did he?