There has been an enduring buzz around Glasgow’s Buchanan Street shopping strip as the infamous lingerie store Victoria’s Secret worked away behind blacked out windows, offering a glow up to the drab and dusty space which was once home to H&M. With the fluorescent pink walls switched on and the lace and silk intimates in full display, the place seemed ready to attract customers in. It was no surprise to see a long queue forming outside on opening day, with dozens of people waiting in the rain to be welcomed warmly into the embrace of new potential seductions.
Most of us have become aware of the supermodel brand at some point. If you follow Kendall Jenner or the Hadid sisters on social media, you’ll have seen the glittering photos of colourful lingerie and angel wings plenty of times. Sadly though, the new flagship store is anything but a runway model. With complaints of rude staff, long wait times, and even dirty pieces of clothing, Glasgow’s very own Victoria’s Secret has been tripping down the catwalk desperately trying to retain its air of confidence, and also maybe its balance.
I visited the store after the opening craze had subsided. It was exactly like I had imagined: black marble floors, chandeliers, velvet furniture and huge LED screens displaying their “angels”, all attempts to capture a grandeur and stature that the brand clearly associates itself with. However, the space is so vast and empty that the underwear feels insignificant and it is almost impossible to locate staff (not that they’ll say hello to you if you do eventually bump into them). This store isn’t exactly student budget friendly, and after the scandal one customer faced when she realised the underwear she had purchased had already been worn and placed back on the shelves, I wasn’t exactly enthused to look around at the garments on offer.
The controversy originated via a recent viral Facebook post written by Vittoria Lupi, Law and French student at the University of Strathclyde, who called out the big star brand for its terrible customer service and lack of efficiency. Visiting the store with friends, I doubt Lupi thought she would later be met with the horrific reality that the underwear she had purchased had already been used. Chatting about her experience, Lupi confessed that the whole situation had left her feeling “physically sick” and that she found the staff’s lack of care or sympathy when she confronted them with the evidence “horrifying”. With the amount of time it took to locate a manager and then being told she would have to join the hour-wait queue in order to receive her refund, she took her complaint higher and contacted the brand’s headquarters in the US, who immediately sent her money back along with a gift card and apology.
It’s a slow and bumpy start for the Glasgow store, one that they are probably hoping will slip away with time. But now that the crowds are no longer lining up at the door, it all seems underwhelming and out of place. It calls into question as to whether a Victoria’s Secret of this size is even necessary or sustainable within the city, or if the brand thought their name would carry them through and earn them a place on the favoured shopping route that is Buchanan Street. It’s hard to predict their future, but at least for now we can be safe in the knowledge that the models strutting down their runway will all be getting brand new pairs of underwear – we may just have to double check our own.
By Charlotte Riley