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The Numbers Behind Victoria's Secret And Its Iconic Fashion Show

The annual show tapes tonight and airs Dec. 10.

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It's blinged-out bra season again in New York — that is, time for the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show taping.

Lingerie brand Victoria's Secret has an amazing thing going with its annual show, which drums up press coverage first with its taping, set for later today, and again when it airs on CBS a month later. Executives at L Brands, Victoria's Secret's parent company, refer to it as essentially an hour-long commercial for its biggest business, with plenty of advertising building up to the event and tied to it afterward. (Though with Taylor Swift and Fall Out Boy among performers this year, and Bieber, Rihanna, and Kanye in years past, it's more entertaining than the average ad spot.)

The show is estimated to cost between $10 million and $15 million to put on, excluding the $10 million bra that will be modeled by Candice Swanepoel this year. Even if it cost more, that's paltry compared to Victoria's Secret's approximately $6.6 billion in annual sales.

It's not a coincidence the show usually airs during the first week of December. L Brands, which also owns smaller chains Bath & Body Works and Henri Bendel, usually makes one-third of the year's sales in the gift-giving fourth quarter, which is also typically its most profitable. By hitting about a week after the retail insanity that is Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Victoria's Secret gets an extra shopping bump after viewers see the sparkly lingerie modeled by Angels in six-inch heels. In 2010, Victoria's Secret's direct business hit a daily high after the show aired, which is just how it's supposed to work, executives have said.

The show is also viewed as a key driver of "emotion and awareness and regard for our brand," according to L Brands Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer. And that's good for business.

"If you're selling on emotion versus on price, that drives margin — financial margin, merchandise margin, operating margin," Burgdoerfer said on a conference call last year. "And Victoria's Secret has emotional content. If you watch an advertisement or a fashion show or walk into a store, whether you're a customer or not, I think it's undeniable that the brand has emotional content. And that drives pricing power."

To his point, the airing on CBS drew mostly women last year in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic, the network said. Below, numbers behind the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show.

$6.6 billion: Victoria's Secret and Pink's most recent annual sales. That's more than either Gap or Old Navy draw in a year, and exceeds the combined annual sales of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and Free People.

It's also more than six times the annual revenue of American Apparel. In other words, very big.


9.3 million: The number of viewers who tuned in to the show last year, making it the top-rated show of the night for 18- to 49-year-olds.

That was down from 11.5 million in 2011. The show is said to attract twice as many women viewers than men in the coveted 18- to 34-year-old age group, Victoria's Secret's core demographic.

$2.72 billion: L Brands' spending on store openings, marketing, and other general and administrative expenses last year. That makes the estimated $10 million to $15 million to put on the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show look remarkably small.


$200,000: The non-negotiated cost for a 30-second ad during last year's airing, according to Nielsen data.

"The audience profile is very attractive to advertisers," said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media. "Particularly on a network like CBS that has kind of an older audience profile this is something a little bit different."

Sapna Maheshwari is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Maheshwari reports on retail and e-commerce.

Contact Sapna Maheshwari at

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