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It's Not the Holidays Until an Angel Walks the Runway

When it comes to ringing in the holiday season, some retailers do it with bows, ribbons, candles, lights and trees.

Model Magdalena Frackowiak walks down the runway at the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at New York City's Lexington Armory on Nov. 10, 2010.
Photo: Oliver Quillia
Model Magdalena Frackowiak walks down the runway at the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at New York City's Lexington Armory on Nov. 10, 2010.

Others do it on a grander scale: Macy’s has the Thanksgiving Day parade, Neiman Marcus has its fantasy gift catalog, Lord & Taylor has its festively decorated windows along New York’s Fifth Avenue—and Victoria’s Secret has its fashion show.

Yes, for some it's not truly the holiday season until an "angel" appears.

In their own way, each of these traditions works to cultivate the brand and stir up excitement among that retailer’s most loyal fans, encouraging them to patronize their stores during the holidays and throughout the rest of the year.

Of these examples, it is, perhaps, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that best puts the retailer's products at the center of the spectacle. This year’s incarnation was taped Nov. 10 at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York, and the show will air for all its fans to see on Nov. 30 at 10pm ET, on CBS.

The show’s creators said they were hoping to reflect the many different facets of a woman’s personality in this year's edition, which was divided into six themes: “Tough Love,” “Wild Things,” “Heavenly Bodies,” “Game On,” “Country Girls” and “Pink.” Each theme created a different vibe—from tough and strong to tribal and exotic to sporty and fun, among others.

One of the challenges of having an annual event is that each year, the celebration has to have an element to wow the crowd and make it seem fresh.

Model Lindsay Ellingson walks down the runway at the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at New York City's Lexington Armory on Nov. 10, 2010.
Photo: Oliver Quillia for CNBC.com
Model Lindsay Ellingson walks down the runway at the 2010 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at New York City's Lexington Armory on Nov. 10, 2010.

Certainly, there are numerous elements that help to accomplish that, but one eye-catching example is the elaborate pair of angel wings placed on many of the models as they strut down the runway. Each was eye-catching in its own way—and some were large enough to push the limits of what a model could wear and move still move down the runway. Others were festooned with feathers, or made to look like bubbles.

Another part of the tradition is the annual jewel-studded bra that is designed to make jaws drop. This year’s edition—a $3 million bra studded with nearly 2,000 diamonds—was worn by model Adriana Lima.

Performances by singer Katy Perry, who performed two of her songs, and Akon, who sang his song "Angel," also will draw viewers to the show.

But even without this event, Limited Brands, Victoria Secret's parent, is heading into the holidays with a lot of momentum.

The company's brand new iPad app is among the most popular free applications at the Apple store. While some suspect that the scantly clad models depicted in the app are the real draw here, the app actually has some genuine usefulness for the shopper, including a simple way to select products and place them in a shopping cart to purchase without closing the app itself, which not many retailers can say.

'Controversial' Photo Shoot

And there was a lot of buzz around the controversial GQ photo shootof several stars from the popular show "Glee," which had shown actress Lea Michele wearing Victoria's Secret, and little else.

While the uproar over the photo shoot was not anything that the company would have planned on, it certainly has brought a celebrity halo to its products.

"It's almost like when Michelle Obama was seen wearing J. Crew," said John D. Morris, a senior retail analyst at BMO Capital Markets.

As for the products, the holiday lineup at both Victoria's Secret and its sister brand Bath & Body Works are strong this year, Morris said.

Morris, who rates Limited shares an outperform, raised his fiscal year 2010 and 2011 estimates to $2.00 and $2.30 a share, respectively, from $1.98 and $2.20, and lifted his 12-month price target on the shares to $36.

Morris' recent meetings with Limited's management boosted his confidence about the retailer's ability to continue building its business and improve profit margins. The freshness of its new products has enabled the company to increase sales without aggressive discounting and promotion, he said.

"It's not going to go straight north," Morris said of Limited's stock. But he suggests interested investors look for opportunities to build their positions.

Questions? Comments? Email us at consumernation@cnbc.com

Retail