Why Victoria’s Secret Won’t Be Mailing Out Any More Catalogs

A $150 million expense that no longer spurred sales

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If you want to see the Victoria's Secret Angels, you'll have to follow them on Instagram, because the lingerie brand is discontinuing its iconic catalog.

The L Brands-owned retailer has been producing up to 300 million copies of its catalogs per year, at a cost of $125 million to $150 million annually. However, when the brand experimented with dialing back on its physical catalog, it found that sales didn't take a hit.

As a test during the fourth quarter of 2015, the company reduced the number of catalogs it released by 40 percent without seeing a negative impact on its sales. In fact, Stuart Burgdoerfer, L Brands' finance chief, noted during the company's earnings call that "demand in the direct channel was up, if I remember right, about 15 percent." 

While the catalogs have been a staple of Victoria's Secret's marketing strategy since 1977,  it has occasionally been a point of criticism for the brand due to the massive volume of natural resources needed to produce it. In 2006, at the request of environmental activists, the company made changes to its catalog to reduce its environmental impact. 

The company ultimately had to think about what it would do if it "were starting this business today in current context 2016," said Burgdoerfer. "Would you start with one of your major ideas being a paper-based catalog sent through the mail as one of your key, if not your key, marketing activity for a global brand?"

He added: "As we thought about it in that way, along with the numerical tests and financial evaluation, [we became] very comfortable with the change that we've made." 

Victoria's Secret also announced that it would stop selling apparel, swimwear and shoes. The move will allow the company to "focus [its] energy on… bras, panties and beauty" as well as athletic apparel, Burgdoerfer said. 

@KristinaMonllos kristina.monllos@adweek.com Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.