Savage X Fenty and Skims or the Rise of Celebrity-led Underwear Brands in the US

September 2022

Except for the abnormal growth in 2021 and decrease in 2020 caused by the pandemic, the US women’s underwear market is relatively stable in market size. By contrast, there have been considerable fluctuations in market shares mainly caused by Victoria’s Secret’s unstable performance, changes in consumers’ purchase patterns as well as the emergence of new players. This briefing discusses the recent trends in the US women’s underwear market and demonstrates the key drivers of underwear brands’ succ

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Key Findings

Victoria’s Secret, the struggling leader of the US women’s underwear market

Following the sharp decline in 2020, the US led the recovery of the global women’s underwear market and delivered a better-than-expected recovery in 2021. Victoria’s Secret is still leading the US and global women’s underwear market, while it has been struggling since around 2016, attributed to the dramatically changing retailing environment, competitive landscape, and consumer needs.

New entrants continue to steal share in a concentrated market

The US women’s underwear market has been less concentrated since 2017. The share of “others” exceeded that of the top three brands – Victoria’s Secret, Hanes, and Aerie – in 2017. Facing the challenges from competitors and the macro environment, US underwear players, especially traditional players (ie Victoria’s Secret and Hanes), are under intense pressure to adapt to new consumer lifestyles, retail channel preferences, and the growing interest in sustainability.

Demand for wellbeing and self-acceptance surges

Along with the global consumer trends growing “Self-love Seekers”, in 2022 me-centred features, such as “comfortable”, have been increasingly influential in US female consumers’ underwear purchases. Also, US female consumers’ active involvement in social issues and the growing diversity in the US population have enforced companies to blend inclusivity in products/brand images.

Building “phygital” retailing to motivate consumers’ in-store purchases

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of e-commerce, while a physical store-based environment remains important to create direct bonds with consumers. In-store retailing still dominates US women’s underwear sales, but there have been changes in consumers’ in-store shopping motivations as consumers look for innovative shopping experiences.

Investing in digital transformation is key to sustain growth

Technology-related operational investments have been accelerated since the pandemic. Sales of women’s underwear via e-commerce and s-commerce are set to increase further, as companies increasingly invest in digital transformation to achieve greater efficiency and sustain growth, such as Savage X Fenty’s 3D body scanning and Skims’ warehouse robotics.

Executive summary
The US women’s underwear market
Victoria’s Secret continues to lead…
…but the US women’s underwear market is becoming less concentrated
Though yet small, new entrants gain share steadily
A rapid rise to fame
Answering consumers’ demand for wellbeing and self-acceptance
Comfort remains the top apparel and footwear purchasing criterion
The end of the push-up bra?
Both Savage X Fenty and Skims champion inclusivity and empowerment…
…to be continued
Thriving through consumer reviews
Womenswear, next Skims target
DTC strategies and expansion to “phygital” (1)
DTC strategies and expansion to “phygital” (2)
US consumers increasingly participate in loyalty programmes and subscription services
Savage X Fenty’s membership programme has helped drive its revenue growth
Championing social media and influencer marketing
Investing in 3D body scanning and warehouse robotics
Opportunities and risks: International expansion
Opportunities and risks: Sustainability
Key takeaways from Savage X Fenty and Skims’ success – not only because of celebrities

Apparel and Footwear

Apparel is the aggregation of clothing and footwear. This dataset covers retail sales of apparel through both store-based retailers and non-store retailers. Excludes black market sales (i.e. untaxed, generated within informal retailing)and duty free sales (travel retail). Items must be new when sold to the consumer; second-hand/used items are excluded. Antique and/or vintage clothing and footwear is also excluded.

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