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M&S and Next compete for UK arm of Victoria’s Secret | Business

Marks and Spencer and Next are competing to take control of the UK arm of the lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret.

The US brand put its British arm, which has 25 stores and employs more than 800 people, into administration earlier this month after a stormy period during which sales fell and the UK arm slumped to a pre-tax loss of £171m.

M&S and Next are understood to be competing with at least one other bidder to take control of the franchise for Victoria’s Secret in the UK, as first reported by Sky News. The brand would give Marks and Spencer access to a potentially younger consumer and be in line with the retailer’s new strategy, revealed last month, to increase sales by selling “complementary guest brands” online.

Analysts questioned whether Victoria’s Secret, once renowned for its over the top fashion shows featuring scantily clad models known as “angels”, would be a positive addition to Marks and Spencer’s online lineup.

The shows were ditched several years ago but the brand, aimed at teens and twentysomethings, has attracted criticism of its treatment of models and presentation of women. Its sexy image is also out of tune with a shift to more comfortable and gender-neutral underwear among younger shoppers.

Patrick O’Brien, an analyst at GlobalData, said Victoria’s Secret had lost relevance in the #MeToo era. “It’s a very jaded brand that hasn’t moved on with the times at all.”

The UK stores have been closed since March under the government-imposed high street lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus but they reopened on Friday.

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M&S is unlikely to want Victoria’s Secret’s portfolio of stores, which the administrators at the advisory firm Deloitte are thought to be keen to offload as part of a deal. The UK division also does not have ownership of Victoria’s Secret’s online sales in the country – which are controlled by the US parent.

M&S could also find itself mired in a competition investigation. The retailer already controls almost a third of the UK lingerie market, including 36% of the market for bras.

Next is a more likely contender as it already sells a portfolio of brands via its Label catalogue and online business and has previously bought up the younger brand Lipsy to help broaden its appeal.

M&S and Next declined to comment.

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