What's Going on with Agent Provocateur? [UPDATED]

As customers complain about unfulfilled orders and customer service issues, is the lingerie brand in trouble?
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As customers complain about unfulfilled orders and customer service issues, is the lingerie brand in trouble?
Andreea Diaconu for Agent Provocateur. Photo: Mario Sorrenti/Agent Provocateur

Andreea Diaconu for Agent Provocateur. Photo: Mario Sorrenti/Agent Provocateur

There's no question that the retail market has never been more rough, with brands declaring bankruptcy with alarming frequency. The lingerie sector can be especially challenging, thanks to intricate product requirements and one very big competitor (that would be Victoria's Secret, by the way — which is facing woes of its own). If customers on the internet are to be believed, the latest brand under fire is Agent Provocateur, the luxury line most prominently featured in Love's Advent calendar videos.

Customers are flooding the comments of Agent Provocateur's recent Instagram posts and have left furious feedback on its Facebook page accusing the brand of poor customer service. Many are upset that packages ordered during a recent sale were either shipped to incorrect addresses or never shipped at all; some are claiming that Agent Provocateur still charged customers for orders the company was forced to cancel due to stock shortages. The first complaint on Agent Provocateur's Facebook page dates from June 23 and they continue through to Thursday. 

"Fed up with Agent and their absolutely terrible customer service," reads one comment. "You have taken out money from my account on a bra you haven't sent me and cancelled."

"So I ordered from your company in UK, it got sent to a wrong address. As soon as I got the message from dpd I sent your customer service an email with the notification they put a wrong address. Now i got the message from dpd it got delivered but obviously not to the place I wanted it. Customer service did not answer my email nor any of my calls [all sic]," reads another

As of Thursday, Agent Provocateur has begun to respond to Facebook comments with the following: "Our sincerest apologies for the delay in response, this is due to the sheer volume of queries we have recently received. If you still require any assistance in regards to your order, please do not hesitate to contact us privately & advise your order reference and contact details. Our apologies once again for any inconvenience caused. Thank you, Agent Provocateur." 

The problem is that many of these angry customers state they have contacted the brand privately through a customer service line — which some also claim was cut off at one point — customer service emails, and even Facebook messenger. These shoppers say they were promised a response to those inquiries, but they never came. Agent Provocateur did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fashionista. 

Agent Provocateur has faced troubles in recent months: After announcing the brand would be downsizing in November 2016, including shuttering a third of its retail network and cutting its London headquarters by 30 percent, the brand was sold to Four Holdings for £30 million in March — a far cry from a 2014 valuation of £200 million. Just before the sale, it had been placed in "administration," or bankruptcy; the deal was completed through "pre-pack administration," a controversial method in which a restructuring plan is agreed upon before the sale and the bankruptcy declared after the sale takes place, which helps the company trade at a lower cost and shed some debts. Joe Corré, a co-founder of Agent Provocateur, called the deal "a disgrace to British business."

There was a time that Agent Provocateur dominated the fashion industry, collaborating with the likes of Charlotte Olympia and putting supermodels like Naomi Campbell in its ad campaigns. These customer service complaints certainly don't reflect the reputation of this luxury company. Here's hoping this is just a hiccup and not a sign of things to come.

UPDATE, July 7, 2:45 p.m.: A representative for Agent Provocateur has responded with the following:

"To clarify, the delays in order fulfillment were not caused by the changes that Agent Provocateur Ltd has recently been through, but by an isolated incident that happened with the courier provider in the UK at the end of June. We prioritised these orders and informed all affected customers about potential delays.

As soon as the situation with our courier provider was resolved, all the orders were released and sent to customers. Each customer was given an option to get a refund and in addition we also refunded all delivery costs."

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