It’s not often Winnipeggers get so excited about underwear.
About 200 people lined up outside the new Victoria’s Secret store in Polo Park, awaiting the grand opening at 10 a.m. today.
Most of the people in line were women, but there were a few men eager for the store to open. And it’s men who are of special interest for the iconic lingerie retailer, which is hoping to put an end to the secret society where men look both ways before ducking their heads and sneaking in to buy a matching bra and thong for the lady in their lives.
The international retailing giant christened its first Winnipeg location just in time for the Christmas rush. The more than 9,500-square-foot location has a large welcoming entrance and well-displayed intimates of all kinds. A first-time who doesn’t know where to start? No worries. The stores typically have greeters to welcome customers and point them in the right direction.
This comfortable environment is the brainchild of founder Roy Raymond, who felt embarrassed buying lingerie for his wife in a department store back in the 1970s.
Robert Warren, a local marketing expert, said unlike many of its competitors, Victoria’s Secret is "man-friendly."
"It has taken the stigma away from going into a lingerie store for men," he said.
Some of the top differentiators at Victoria’s Secret, Warren said, are customer-friendly displays which make it easier to see the products and understand the sizing.
"You’re not rummaging through hampers. In lots of other stores, (the garments) are not full-up on display. It makes it seem as if it’s a naughty product," he said.
"Victoria’s Secret will make men feel less uncomfortable when walking in and not knowing the difference between a bra and a camisole or whether their wives wear a full-cup or a demi-cup."
The fact that many of its products come in bright, vibrant colours – not in beige and white – also put men more at ease because it won’t have them thinking they’re looking at an old Eaton’s catalogue, Warren said.
Perhaps an understated point is that Victoria’s Secret also carries lingerie that women really want to wear, Warren said.
"Typically when men think about going into a lingerie store, they end up going to some really racy place and buying things their wives would never wear in a million years," he said.
John Archer, senior consultant at J.C. Williams Group, a Toronto-based retail consulting firm, said consumers should brace themselves for some serious line-ups if the store is as popular in Winnipeg as it is in other centres.
"Definitely, there’s a bit of sex there, for sure," he said.
Victoria’s Secret also excels in marketing their latest lines through their annual fashion shows and they also have a significant online presence through social media, he said.
In fact, Victoria’s Secret locations are destination locations as far away as the Middle East.
"They’re not even allowed to sell the products they’re best known for there (due to religious customs)," he said.