The 2014 Victoria's Secret fashion show in London kicks off later today and the Angels are ready to go. The brand, known for its lingerie for women, has been a retail powerhouse for years since being founded by Roy Raymond, an American businessman, in 1977. It's the largest retailer for lingerie in the U.S., with over 1,000 locations (as of Aug. 2, 2014). Its current CEO, meanwhile, is Sharen Jester Turney who took over in 2006.
But there are many surprising facets of the company that may not be so well-known as its recognizable products. Ahead of today's event, here are seven facts about the business - both good and bad - that may come as a surprise about the retail giant.
1. It's been enmeshed in ad campaign controversy.
At the end of October, Victoria's Secret came under fire for it "Perfect Body" campaign, which features ad copy playing on its "Body" lingerie line. The text, of course, is featured on supermodels' bodies, suggesting they're the ones with the ideal form. Customers, however, weren't amused. Over 16,000 signed a petition in the U.K. claiming the marketing ploy screamed of body-shaming.
But Victoria's Secret listened to the cries - at least partially. By the beginning of November, the lingerie company changed its wording online. Retail stories, however, still feature the "Perfect Body" text to the dismay of some customers.
2. The company's at the forefront of digital bra tech.
That's right. Even Victoria's Secret has entered into the wearable technology business. For just over $70, customers can purchase "Incredible by Victoria's Secret," a heart-rate monitor compatible sports bra, according to its website. The high-tech undergarment comps in either "Hello Lovely" pink or "Black Marl," a grey and black toned version. "Perfect for running, boxing and high-impact workouts, our truly Incredible maximum support sport bra is on the front lines of fitness with sensors that attach to most heart-rate monitors," according to the product description. Interestingly, however, it comes with heart rate sensors, but no monitor. "Use with most clip-on heart rate monitors by leading brands," the description continues.
3. It's growing financially.
In terms of sales per square foot, Victoria's Secret has been steadily rising over the last three years, according to its most recent annual report. For example, in 2011, sales per average selling square foot came in at $754. In 2012, that number rose to $817 and then up a little to $824 in 2013. Additionally, taking a look at the sales average per store shows the same slight increases year-to-year. For instance, the numbers (in thousands) were $4,453 for 2011, $4,892 for 2012 and $4,969 for 2013.
4. The company's opening up stores both in the U.S. and around the world.
In its annual report from 2014, Victoria's Secret said it's opening up more stores in the U.S. from 1,019 to 1,060, according to its latest annual report. In other parts of the world, it also saw stores grow, including going from 26 to 34 in Canada and from just two to five in the U.K.
5. The company's models wear bras worth millions.
Ever since model Claudia Schiffer wore a $1 million bra in 1996, the values of the bejeweled articles of clothing have skyrocketed with each year, according to an E! Online report. Known as the Victoria's Secret Fantasy Bra model, there will be two at this year's fashion show: Alessandra Ambrosio and Adriana Lima. But their pieces will be worth double, complete with diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
Two million dollars isn't even the most costly bra worn by a model in a show. In fact, E! Online reported that models Heidi Klum and Gisele Bündchen wore $12.5 million designs in 2001 and 2005, respectively.
6. The company is owned by L Brands.
Victoria's Secret falls under the umbrella of L Brands (lb), a company founded and still headed by Leslie Wexner. Along with Victoria's Secret, the company owns other retail stores Bath and Body Works, Pink, La Senza and Henri Bendel. "In 1963, Les founded L Brands with one store in the Kingsdale Shopping Center in Columbus, Ohio - The Limited - with sales of $160,000 the first year," the company's website boasts. "Under Les' leadership, L Brands has evolved from an apparel based specialty retailer to an approximately $10 billion segment leader with more than 90,000 associates focused on lingerie, beauty and personal care product categories that make customers feel sexy, sophisticated and forever young."
7. Taylor Swift: Victoria's Secret brand ambassador and buddy?
In many ways, the last couple months have been all about Taylor Swift. She was on the cover of Time, she released her latest album, 1989, she's been a New York City ambassador, had a public feud with Spotify and, now, will be performing at the Victoria's Secret show - for the second consecutive year. She's also apparently chummy with a number of the Angels, according to InStyle. For instance, the site reported that she hung out with Karlie Kloss, Lily Aldridge, Candice Swanepoel and Behati Prinsloo in London ahead of the show.