Victoria’s Secret Pink Adds HBCU Flair

Collegiate apparel to showcase black colleges

says that it was always his intention to eventually include HBCUs.

Using school size as criteria for the first round automatically excludes minority populations without considering their spending potential, says Bob Dale, CEO of Chicago-based R.J. Dale Advertising & Public Relations Inc. “They might have been a little short-sighted.”

“In terms of distribution through Victoria’s Secret’s website and catalog in millions upon millions of homes it will be a wider distribution than [HBCUs] have ever enjoyed in any other licensed program,” says Scott Bouyack, vice president of apparel marketing at the Collegiate Licensing Co.

Not using an HBCU in the first phase “sparks some interesting conversation,” says Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, who joined Reid’s Facebook’s group. “Victoria’s Secret has been very good to women like Tyra Banks and Latino models. I think we should look at the company’s history when it comes to African Americans, and I don’t feel that exclusion is characteristic to who the company is.”’

“Black consumers are loyal to those companies and brands that are loyal to them,” says McGhee Williams Osse, co-CEO of Burrell Communications. “African American consumers want to be recognized and respected by corporations where we spend money, and those corporations [must remember] that they are competing for our dollars.”

“I can’t say that it was unfair,” Osse adds. “Clearly it was a business decision, and Victoria’s Secret is in the business to make money. I know that we spend more, buy more frequently, and in casual wear, we buy more garments per purchase.”

All agree that the Pink brand and all other retailers can’t just compare population numbers. They maintain that companies need to look at the buying behavior of these young women, particularly African American women, who are graduates of these schools.

“From a trend standpoint, I would say [black schools are] a very viable audience for Victoria’s Secret,” Osse says. “It is the type of retail operation that young, socially active, fashion-involved, African American women would be attracted to. I think this oversight is very unfortunate.”

As for Reid, she doesn’t plan to patronize the company until she sees its promotional tour bus at Howard’s homecoming and HBCU products on the racks. “I hope my site’s feedback shows that young black girls are major consumers of Victoria’s Secret,” Reid says. “When I can actually pick up my Howard sweatpants, is when I’ll buy Pink again.”

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