Tweens buying 'Secret' lingerie
By JANE M. VON BERGEN
Knight Ridder Newspapers
PHILADELPHIA -- En route to a dressing room, Lily Feingold and Brittany Garrison, both 11, barely glanced at the nearly nude mannequin in her red tasseled bra and high-cut panties at Victoria's Secret -- one of their favorite stores.
"We don't use that," Brittany said, nodding toward the bra.
Neither Lily nor Brittany would have much use for any of Victoria Secret's bras, actually. "They're still outwardly mobile," joked Lily's mother, Suzanne Bonsall Feingold.
Marketing experts call Lily and Brittany's yearnings "aspirational," and that aspiration may explain why the girls and many of their friends are regular Victoria's Secret customers, despite their tender age.
The company says it is absolutely not marketing to this young a customer. But experts say that in a society where sexuality is omnipresent, young girls inevitably will look to a time when they can become sophisticated young women like those they see on TV.
Or maybe they just like those cute lounge pants with the hearts and the glitter.
"Our typical customer ranges from 20 to in her 40s," said Anthony Hebron, a Victoria Secret's spokesman.
Oops. Somebody forgot to tell Lily and Brittany.
Shopping at the mall a couple of weeks ago, the girls headed directly to a Victoria's Secret department called "Pink."
Pink's target market is the college coed age 19 and older. "It's what you see around the dorm," he said. "It's the fun, playful stuff she needs, but still fashionable."
If there are purple-pantied mannequins in see-through negligees on one side of the store, the Pink side is somewhere between G and PG-13, with stuffed animals, rhinestone lounge pants in pink, and shirts decorated with Pink's trademark mascot, a pink dog.
Even the heart-covered thongs are more cute than racy.
It doesn't surprise retail experts that tweens such as Lily and Brittany enjoy Victoria's Secret.
"It's something mature, something sophisticated," said David Morrison, who heads TwentySomething, a Radnor marketing company focused on younger consumers.
Even though the girls shop in the "Pink" part of the store, they see the other merchandise and can aspire to being older and living the lives they see on TV and online, he said.
"They can't put their full finger on what it means, but they know it's desirable," he said.
What's helping Victoria's Secret, said Martin "Marty" Rogoff, a visiting retailing professor at Philadelphia University, is what's hurting toy sales.
"There's something we call age compression," he said. Young people are leaving their childhoods early, forsaking toys for other pleasures, such as shopping.
On the fashion side, his college students are wearing pajamas to class, and so are their younger siblings when they can get away with it. That creates an instant market for Victoria's Secret's less provocative lines. WTF?!?
One of Rogoff's colleagues, Natalie Weathers, an assistant professor of fashion-industry management, said Victoria's Secret is also tapping into a tween trend known as co-shopping -- or shopping with Mom. "They are advising their daughters about their purchases, and their daughters are advising them," she said.
"They are not little girls and they aren't teenagers, but they have a lot of access to sophisticated information about what the media says is beautiful, what is pretty, what is hot and stylish and cool," she said. "They are very visually literate."
Morrison said he's not surprised that Victoria's Secret denies marketing to tweens.
"There is a definite potential for backlash," he said.
"If Victoria's Secret is blatantly catering to seventh- and eighth-graders, that might be considered exploitative," he said. Also, Victoria's Secret's core customers might prefer their store sexy, not sweet.
"You don't want it to be so accessible that you lose the sense of sexiness. I think it's a brand that is walking a very fine line," he said.
"When I was little, I used to put on makeup to be like my sisters," Brittany said. "But you're wasting your time trying to be grown-up and not enjoying your life. Some girls do try to be older than themselves, and that's why they go to Victoria's Secret."
Lily nodded in agreement.
"We just do it because we like their sweat pants," she said.
Bullshit its not marketed to kids.
The "Pink" line is in the window at the Victorias Secret's here, and clothing and displays that are CLEARLY meant to appeal young girls, very juvinile. They also have cute little stuffed animals that they give out free with a "pink" purchase....
You have to walk through the "pink" section to get to the adult side of the store.