A $15 million lawsuit by a N.J. hosiery retailer, Zephyrs, accuses Victoria’s Secret, based in Columbus, Ohio, with bait-and-switch marketing, substituting cheaper stockings for the supplier’s quality Italian made products, as reported on Tuesday, August 28, 2012 by the International Business Times, the New York Daily News, New York Magazine, the Daily Front Row, and other media sources.
The hosiery company is being represented by the Gioconda Law Group PLLC, which refers to itself as “an elite law and consulting firm providing brand protection litigation, investigations, and strategy to clients in dynamic industries.” Putting it more simply, they fight piracy from their offices located in the heart of New York’s fashion district.
At the center of the lawsuit is a 2001 agreement by Victoria’s Secret prohibiting them from selling cheaper products. The suit alleges that the publicly traded company, which is a division of Limited Brands, formerly known as The Limited, has broken its promise, and passed knock-off products to consumers in packages which picture the more expensive Zephyrs brand.
In addition to a financial settlement, the suit also wants Victoria’s Secret to correct the advertising of their product and recall merchandise that reportedly have cheaper lace trims, irregular borders, missing heel reinforcements and less durable construction.
The hosiery that Zephyr is suing over includes a line of Lace Top Fish Net Stockings, Fish Net Thigh-Highs With Backseam, and a Signature Stripe Thigh-High With Bows, which normally sell from $16 to $18 for each product.
For a retail chain with over 1,040 company owned stores, and international franchises in the U.K., Canada, Latin America, the Middle East, and elsewhere, along with a bevy of the world’s most beautiful super models, known as Victoria’s Secret Angels, who wear their line of products, the legal problems are not that threatening.
Victoria’s Secret mails out over 400 million of its glossy catalogs each year, and accounts for over 62% of their parent company’s net sales, that includes other profitable divisions, such as Bath & Body Works. Their net sales derive from over 6 million square feet of retail space, combined with mail order catalog sales, and exceeded $6 billion in 2011.
Still, any legal action is a threat to business as usual. Gioconda told the fashion industry newspaper Women’s Wear Daily that Victoria’s Secret has sold “at least $120 million worth of Zephyrs-designed products.” The New York Daily News calls such product substitution “thigh-high deception.”
While “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, according to Irish writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in her 1878 novel “Molly Bawn”, profits are what drive modern corporations and their shareholders. That may help to explain this alleged business tactic by Victoria’s Secret.
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