Sexing Up Victoria's Secret The lingerie retailer's revamped New York flagship signals a new look for malls nationwide, bringing once-stuffy store design into step with the brand's supermodel image.
By Monica Khemsurov

(Business 2.0) – Its panties, bras, and bustiers have come to define 21st-century risqu?, yet walking into a cushy pink Victoria's Secret store has often felt like a journey back to the Victorian era--more innocent cherub than sexpot angel.

But that image will soon be history, as the Limited Brands lingerie chain prepares its stores for a racy makeover intended to better align them with the glittering ranks of supermodels--like Tyra Banks and Gisele Bündchen--who now define the brand. The bold new look debuted in November 2002 at the Victoria's Secret flagship store in New York City's Herald Square and will soon roll out to the chain's 1,011 retail outlets nationwide. The goal? Instead of stepping back in time, shoppers will feel as though they've just sashayed onto the Victoria's Secret runway, and the chain will reap the rewards of new design elements that already are pumping up sales at the 25,000-square-foot Herald Square store, particularly in panties.

"Traditionally our stores have had soft, feminine environments, but the ad campaigns were sexier," says Kathleen Baldwin, vice president for store design. "Those ads, and the Victoria's Secret fashion show, are an enormous part of our image, and the new design is more aligned with that."

Limited CEO Leslie Wexner initiated the overhaul, looking to make Victoria's Secret a more upscale brand in consumers' minds; the goal was to boost the racy factor without cheapening the store's image. So the company called on design firm Yabu Pushelberg to brainstorm ways to increase traffic chainwide. From there, Baldwin and her team reexamined everything down to the lighting (now more theatrical) and the background music (out with Beethoven, in with loungey electronica). With the flagship's sales exceeding targets, Victoria's Secret will mimic nearly all of the changes elsewhere; four mall stores have already had their makeovers. Here's how Herald Square showed the chain how to strut its stuff. -- MONICA KHEMSUROV