Don't go shopping at Victoria's Secret until you read this

Victoria's Secret was created in 1977, after businessman Roy Raymond came up with the idea for the brand when feeling uncomfortable picking out lingerie for his wife at a department store. Fast-forward to the '90s and Victoria's Secret had become one of the largest lingerie retailers in the United States, according to Business Insider. In 2006, Victoria's Secret's sales increased a whopping 70 percent — over $7 billion in sales. That started to change in 2015. As American Eagle's Aerie line and lingerie company ThirdLove began marketing underwear to the everywoman, Victoria's Secret continued to advertise lingerie designed for supermodel bodies.

Nevertheless, Victoria's Secret is reportedly still the largest lingerie retailer in America as of 2019. Though the company has not regained its popularity of the mid-aughts, the stores are continuing to fight to retain their position. "Our No. 1 priority is improving performance at Victoria's Secret Lingerie and PINK," chairman and CEO Leslie Wexner said in late 2018 (via Forbes). By the year's end, the company reported over a billion visits to their stores. Obviously, the brand continues to have many loyal customers. If you're not one, here are all the things you should know before shopping at Victoria's Secret.

Victoria's Secret may be different from what you remember

"We are taking a fresh, hard look at everything in the business," Stuart Burgdoefer, chief financial officer of Victoria's Secret parent company L Brands, said in a statement provided to CNN Business in early 2019. Unfortunately for customers, one of those changes affected promotions. When speaking to analysts (via CNN Business), Burgdoefer revealed that the label had become "more promotional than we would like over the last several years." Sure enough, Mary Hanbury, a retail reporter for Business Insider, confirmed that Victoria's Secret — or at least the World Trade Center Westfield Mall location in New York City — lacked Victoria's Secret sale signs by the end of February 2019.

That's not the only thing that's changed, though. Many customers took to social media and complained about a noticeable decline in quality, Business Insider revealed. When the publication pressed the brand about such reports, Victoria's Secret did not respond. 

Nevertheless, the majority of customers shopping at Victoria's Secret — 57 percent — have a favorable opinion of the brand, according to the market research firm YouGov. Additionally, 14 percent of people polled have a negative opinion and 27 percent have a "neutral opinion."

Free bra fittings are still a thing at Victoria's Secret

Despite fewer Victoria's Secret sales and some less-than-stellar feedback from some customers, much of the brand has remained the same — for better or for worse. After visiting a downtown Manhattan Victoria's Secret store in 2019, Business Insider retail reporter Mary Hanbury revealed that the store still had its "signature dark lighting and black painted walls" as well as its "dated" and "boudoir-like fitting rooms." You can also still count on those free, no-appointment-necessary bra fittings — which may just be the secret behind much of the company's success.

Statistics reveal that around 80 percent of women are wearing the wrong bra size. A promotional video for Victoria's Secret repeats this statistic — and offers to help. Using Victoria's Secret models Alexina Graham, Josephine Skriver, Lais Ribeiro, and Dylan Sprouse's girlfriend Barbara Palvin, bra fit expert Iana Townsend demonstrates a bra fitting, which would normally take place in the store's fitting room — sans shirt, but with bra. Detailing her own bra-fitting experiencing in an article for Babe, Alyssa Lopez shared, "First, they measure around your chest, right under your armpits, above your boobs." Victoria's Secret is also said to guarantee "a perfect fit" with your free measurement.

Not every size is offered at Victoria's Secret

Despite signage in fitting rooms promising "a perfect fit," Victoria's Secret doesn't actually carry every bra size. According to the company's official site, "bra sizes range from 30A to 40DDD." This limited range may have worked better when the brand was first launched. According to a survey by lingerie retailer Intimacy (via Racked), the average American cup size was 34B in 1983. However, by 2013, the average size increased to 34DD. While rival label ThirdLove offers "78 bra sizes from a 30 to 48 band and an AA to I cup," according to their site, Victoria's Secret has been resistant to size inclusivity. 

"We market to who we sell to, and we don't market to the whole world," chief marketing officer of L Brands, the parent company of Victoria's Secret, Ed Razek revealed in a heavily criticized interview with Vogue. "Do we offer larger sizes? Yes," he continued, later adding, "So it's like, why don't you do 50? Why don't you do 60? Why don't you do 24?" For those with breasts smaller or larger than the available sizes, Victoria's Secret bras aren't going to be a good — never mind perfect — fit.

Victoria's Secret employees aren't personal shoppers

Clad in nearly all-black ensembles with matching headsets, Victoria Secret's employees are basically Secret agents (see what we did there?). However, it's important to remember that these employees don't actually work for the customers. "Contrary to popular belief, we aren't personal shoppers," Brooke, a former Victoria's Secret employee, revealed to the Thrillist in a tell-all article. "But so many clients expected to be hand-held by the same associate as they perused six rooms' worth of lingerie." Much like servers at a restaurant, employees at Victoria's Secret are assigned to zones within the store. This helps to "prevent shoplifting," according to Brooke.

There's also a science behind who gets assigned to which zone. "There was definitely a hierarchy within zones," ex-employee Julie told the publication. "Employees with the highest sales numbers were put in the front of the store by the signature Body collection because it got the most foot traffic."

It pays to be a good customer at Victoria's Secret

The zone designations within Victoria Secret's stores are one of the reasons behind those fancy schmancy headsets. "We used our headsets to do merchandise checks in the stockroom, as well as to let an associate in another zone know if we were sending a client her way," former employee Brooke explained to Thrillist. Of course, they aren't always used for their intended purpose. "But if said client was testy, we'd give comical warning," Brooke admitted. "Like, 'Julie, there is a woman who both looks and barks like a Pomeranian looking for a black Angels bra in a 36D.' We'd do it for laughs because every employee on headset could hear it."

If you aren't viewed as a problem customer who's shopping at Victoria's Secret, though, you could get special treatment. Former employee Julie told the publication that she would "scour the stock room" for those clients who treated her respectfully. Brooke added that she'd sometimes gift wrap — something that's not allowed at the registers because of time constraints — for her particularly nice and chatty customers.

Victoria's Secret lingerie is made for women but designed for men

By all accounts, Roy Raymond created Victoria's Secret with men in mind. The stores were designed to make men more comfortable when shopping for women's lingerie, according to Business Insider. But, naturally, that doesn't sit well with many today.

"Victoria's Secret is losing share to other brands because it's out of touch," Paul Lejuez, a Citi retail analyst, told The New York Times. "The way it's marketing is out of touch. Women don't want to be viewed as stereotypical sexy supermodels buying lingerie just to impress men."

James A. Mitarotonda, CEO of Barington Capital, one of L Brand's shareholders, agrees. In a letter to L Brands CEO Leslie Wexler, Mitarotonda criticized the lingerie label. "Victoria's Secret's brand image is starting to appear to many as being outdated and even a bit 'tone deaf' by failing to be aligned with women's evolving attitudes towards beauty, diversity, and inclusion," he wrote (via Business Insider).

Men are welcome at Victoria's Secret stores

Victoria's Secret may have been founded with men in mind, but the company isn't resigned to solely marketing to guys. Victoria's Secret has actually been working to attract younger female customers. In May 2018, then-CEO Jan Singer told CNBC that the company was seeing success in doing so and attracted a consumer base "much younger than [they] anticipated." Nevertheless, men are still welcome to shop at the stores.

According to two former Victoria's Secret employees, men have been some of their best customers. "Women know the lingerie ropes and sometimes didn't want our help, while the male clientele were the easiest to upsell: 'How about a garter and thigh highs to coordinate with that corset?' or 'That style thong comes in five colors — why not treat her to all of them?'" Brooke revealed to Thrillist. Julie added that she often found it "sweet to see a guy do something to make a woman feel sexy at the expense of his own comfort."

Victoria's Secret claims it's "women's first love"

"Victoria's Secret's identity is sexiness, and that very identity is becoming a challenge for them," Mette Kurth, a partner at the Philadelphia-based law firm Fox Rothschild, told The New York Times. Cora Harrington, author of In Intimate Detail: How to Choose, Wear and Love Lingerie, added that new trends "around being comfortable, athleisure and body positivity" have taken over. "We are seeing a lot more of body positive campaigns, pushes for diversity," she explained. As such, Harrington said "ideas of sexy have changed and are changing."

But there might still be a place for Victoria's Secret. Lingerie brands Natori, Chantelle, and Wacoal follow similar old-fashioned formulas and continue to survive, according to the author. Remaining different from their competitors may just be part of Victoria's Secret plan. "We're nobody's third love," Ed Razek, chief marketing officer of L Brands, told Voguereferencing the rival lingerie company. "We're their first love. And Victoria's Secret has been women's first love from the beginning."

Beware of those Victoria's Secret fitting rooms

If you don't want a guy to do your lingerie shopping at Victoria's Secret, you can visit a Victoria's Secret store for yourself and try on what you like. But you should know that once you take that lingerie home, it may not look the same as it did in the store. As Today reported, Victoria's Secret dressing rooms "emit a signature pink hue that flatters any skin tone" and "many even have a dimmer." Now you know the secret.

That mood lighting also seemingly encourages interesting behavior at times. "Some very weird stuff went down in those seemingly glamorous fitting rooms," former employee Brooke told Thrillist. From lingerie shoots to getting down and dirty on the bench, not every customer uses the Victoria's Secret fitting rooms to simply try on clothing. She noted that "Victoria's Secret's innate sex appeal makes people extra frisky," adding, "There's a reason you have to be 18 to work there." 

Don't forget about Victoria's Secret swimsuits

While Victoria's Secret may be best known for its intimates, the brand sells more than just lingerie. The brand dabbled in swimwear before deciding to hang up the suits in 2016. Three years later, though, the brand surprised its customers by bringing back the bikinis. In May 2019, Today reported the return of Victoria's Secret swimsuits as well as suits from other big labels like Kenneth Cole, Banana Moon, and Lucky Brand. There's no denying how great these suits look, but it didn't take long for people to notice a familiar lack of inclusive sizes. Victoria's Secret swimsuits range from 32A to 38DD in tops and XS to XL in bottoms.

According to Business Insider, others took issue with the price of bathing suits. As of July 2019, some one-pieces are retailing for nearly $200. If you fit — and can pay — the bill, these suits may be a feasible option for you.

Look pretty in the Victoria's Secret PINK line

Victoria's Secret struck gold with PINK — a flirty and fun line for young women. In 2016, Business Insider revealed that the line was "seen as the stepping stone for young consumers to Victoria's Secret," but it transformed to be able to "stand on its own as a viable business." By the end of 2018, though, Victoria' Secret PINK was no longer able to sustain itself — and it couldn't save Victoria's Secret as a whole from its steep decline in sales. As Slate reported, the bra company responded to the lack of sales by eliminating their swimwear line. PINK, however, was — and is, as of July 2019 — safe.

Victoria's Secret Beauty is also still a part of the brand — and will likely not be going anywhere unless the brand goes too. As of this writing, Victoria's Secret is "America's Number 1 fragrance brand." This isn't too surprising once you consider the fact that L Brands also owns Bath & Body Works, which is known for its wonderful scents.

Snag great deals during this Victoria's Secret sale

Victoria's Secret has cut down on the number of promotions they run, but the semi-annual Victoria's Secret sale is still alive and well. Twice a year, you can get some steep discounts on your favorite items, including bras. We're talking some bras as low as $7.99. Whichever on-sale bra you choose to purchase, though, you likely won't have to spend more than $19.99. But it's not just bras that are discounted. 

According to Victoria's Secret's official site, over 2,100 styles are discounted anywhere between 40 and 70 percent during the Spring/Summer Semi-Annual Sale — making it a perfect time to stock up on pajamas, underwear, and, yes, lingerie. Oh, and don't forget about the leggings. As Us Weekly reported, the 2019 sale included deals on the well-reviewed Anytime Cotton High-Rise Leggings, which were marked down from $40 to $15, as well as other deals on workout tights and shorts. While those spendy Victoria's Secret swimsuits were exempt from the semi-annual sale in 2019, the brand ran the Summer Swim Sale in conjunction with the larger promotion, which enabled customers to receive a 30 percent discount on swimwear.

Don't remove those Victoria's Secret garment tags

If you're not into trying on something as intimate as intimates in a fitting room, you have the option to buy and then later return or exchange your product at Victoria's Secret. Yes, even underwear — but they don't end up back on the shelf. "Every returned pair of panties have to get damaged out, regardless of whether the tags are still on them or not," a Victoria's Secret manager confirmed on Reddit. "Then we shred them and throw them out after." While some may find this wasteful, others may be relieved to know that potentially worn underwear isn't resold to unsuspecting customers.

According to Victoria's Secret's website, the company accepts returns with or without a receipt, but they won't take everything back. "We are unable to accept items where the sewn-in garment tag has been cut or removed (where applicable)," the company's policy reveals. Although you might cut those tags off to make your undergarments more comfortable, you'll want to make sure you're not going to want to return the items before you take the scissors to them.

There's nothing angelic about the Angel Card — except a Victoria's Secret coupon

If you came to age in the 2000s, you may have opened your first credit card — the Angel Credit Card — at Victoria's Secret. That bright pink card felt like a rite of passage to adulthood, didn't it? As of 2019, the Angel Credit Card comes with a $15 Victoria's Secret coupon and, according to Victoria's Secret, "a Little Book of Exclusive Perks" valued at $65-worth of savings. Cardmembers will also get a birthday gift and some other exclusive rewards. With an APR of 27.24 percent, though, it could spell trouble if you carry a balance.

Although you probably didn't need to be forced into getting an Angel card back in the day, former employee Julie confirmed to Thrillist that employees are indeed expected to pressure customers about the card. "Our managers would hover over us to make sure we asked every single person who entered our store, 'Are you shopping with your Angel Card today?' And if the client said 'no,' we had to push it three more times," she explained. Unless you're an avid Victoria's Secret shopper, CreditKarma cautions against opening an Angel Card.