Lululemon Athletica: Out with the old, in with the see-through?

By: McGee Hines

It’s become apparent that within the last couple of years a whole new trend of tighter, slimming athletic wear has taken over the female population. From the comfort of yoga pants to the fad of healthy living, it’s not uncommon to see a female on any age sporting black yoga pants or leggings and carrying around a water bottle with some sort of inspirational words on it. Some of this new affinity is thanks to a, now very well-known, company known as Lululemon Athletica. Lululemon was incorporated into the United States in 2004 after being founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver a few years prior.

The company started off as any typical entrepreneurial venture would; Wilson recognized an open, budding market for a specific line of clothing. With yoga being part of the founders core values in life, he saw an increase of females who practice and saw the potential that came with them. Setting the high-quality yoga pants at a retail price of around $89-$100 it’s safe to say Wilson was right. Between the athletic wear sold at Lululemon and the inspirational gear such as water bottles, fitness mats, and headbands to go along with it, people of all ages and body types starting flocking in to snatch up the “best-of-the-best”. The growing affiliation to this type of clothing and lifestyle spread enough to make the company and success and emergent market.

However, it was all fun and games until the company, whose original intent was stated as “elevating the world from mediocrity to greatness”, came to a screeching halt after a mass disappointment across a vast majority of consumers. Reports were being made of two main issues regarding the available sizes of pants and the quality of fabric used. According to customers the signature “luon” fabric Lululemon uses was slightly see-through when stretched. In addition to this, leggings and pants were only produced up to size 12, which didn’t support those who wanted to wear the brand but couldn’t fit comfortably in the athletic clothing.

To founder and chairman Chip Wilson’s defense, Lululemon had no where claimed that their clothing was guaranteed to be completely opaque, or to be offered for all shapes and sizes of yoga-goers. However, when this issue was brought on the way it was handled was probably not ideal. Wilson’s way of addressing the claims were summarized into three interesting moves:

  1. Ignore the claims
  2. Make a public apology to not his customers, but his employees for having to deal with the issue
  3. Recall problematic products and redesign for optimum performance- without making it known to the public

For having such a strong brand and name, it is questionable why Wilson would go about dealing with his company’s tribulations as so. When companies have run-ins with disgruntled customers they usually take elaborate and very cautious measures on their part to fix whatever problems there were. However, Wilson kind of just let his consumer’s and himself hanging on this one.

After the see-through scandal Lululemon recalled the convicted pairs and redesigned them to ensure this problem would not be the case again. With that being said, the company however did not take any such measures to publically announce that they had reconstructed their athletic wear for the better. This, in most people’s opinion was a foul move. If Lululemon wished to regain their loyal yoga guru’s support, they would have advertised their new wear so people would know they messed up, but that that problem would no longer be an issue. However, the company seemed to just let people figure that out on their own in hopes they would eventually all come crawling back (which fortunately for them, did happen).

To much individual’s pleasure, founder and chairman of Lululemon recently stepped down, handing over the reins of ”Creating components for people to live longer, healthier, fun lives” to another trustworthy businesswomen, president of TOMS Shoes.

It’s hard to say what would have been the right moves for Chip Wilson to make in this situation, given the fast-paced and cutthroat industry he is in. Retail requires an entrepreneur to be on their toes, ready to defend their products and come up with solutions to make their consumers satisfied no matter what the circumstance. Luckily for Wilson, Lululemon was one of a kind and had a strong brand to back up his not-so strong character when faced with angry women of the shopping world. With that being said, it goes to show how important it is for the founders of a company to represent their business positively in every way possible. Without the right marketing skills a business can only make it so far. And, even for Lululemon, it was still a stretch.

Source: Wallace, Amy. “Chip Wilson, Lululemon Guru, Is Moving On.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Feb. 2015. Web. 03 Feb. 2015.

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9 thoughts on “Lululemon Athletica: Out with the old, in with the see-through?

  1. Blake Boudreau February 4, 2015 / 10:25 pm

    Over the past two years, I have noticed a great increase in people wearing Lululemon. I have noticed that these people are mostly girls going to the gym and yes they usually have a water bottle with inspirational words on it. After reading this article, it sparked my interest that ever since Chip Wilson stepped down and the president of Toms Shoes took over, that maybe the marketing of this company has increased because all of a sudden I see everyone wearing Lululemon (including guys). I wonder if the president of Toms incorporated the same marketing schemes he used at Toms to market his new company. In my opinion, I think he most be doing a great job because of how much product he is being able to sell at such a high price.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amanda McKenzie February 9, 2015 / 11:25 pm

    I too have noticed an increase in the popularity of Lululemon. I first noticed the brand in high school, when many girls started out with the headbands. It was not until college that I noticed people- mostly girls- getting the pants and sweatshirts and water bottles. I also wonder if the president of toms did something to market the brand better for more and more people to get into the brand?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lindsey Fratus February 18, 2015 / 4:18 am

    Over the past year I have also noticed an increase in Lululemon athletic wear. Of course girls are drawn to the brand because of the comfy yoga pants, breezy workout shirts and of course being able to be trendy. But I have recently noticed guys wearing this brand more and more. I have seen men wearing Lulu shorts, pants, sweatshirts, shirts, underwear, anreven gloves. It seems that the new president has increased the amount of marketing towards men, and has made the brand know to more people.

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    • McGee Hines April 22, 2015 / 3:21 pm

      I totally agree! I think the increase of men’s wear has been due to not only more brand recognition, but also the realization of the quality of the brand. A lot of athletes have carried on the bandwagon of purchasing LuluLemon because they notice that they get a good product for the (fairly hefty) amount they’re paying for it.

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  4. Kendra Van Pelt March 29, 2015 / 9:22 pm

    Since 2004, Lululemon has made great strides in the U.S. markets in regards to popularity and sales. It’s stores have made it to the both coasts and is starting to be since much more often within the parts in between. By now, many consumers in the States recognize the name Lululemon. Some may recognize it has a hip, stylish looking clothing line, while others view it for it’s original intent and purpose – yoga. Whichever way it is viewed within the consumer’s eye, it is doing well in the markets. Obviously, the befuddlement under Wilson’s guidance was (or should be) embracing for the the company. However, because consumers have loved it so much, Lululemon was luckily not hurt to much by their unhappy customers at the time. So long as the company keeps offering quality products are fair prices, they will continue to build a community of Lululemon fans. The TOMs shoe company has been very successful – as the the new president steps into power, I expect to continue to see only a positive and upwards direction for the company.

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  5. Meghan Saldutti March 31, 2015 / 12:27 am

    I for one do not own anything from Lululemon but I am surrounded by people who purchase their items not the regular. It has become extremely popular in the past, I would say five years or so. People do not seem to acknowledge how expensive their clothing is and how some of it does not hold up. I think it was a good business move for the company for Chip Wilson to step down from the company. When the scandal happened and Chip did not apologize to the customers but only to his employees, this was a major red flag that he did not care about the people who were buying his products. Hopefully the new chairman will take Lululemon in the right direction in years to follow.

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    • Megan Lac March 2, 2016 / 5:15 pm

      I feel like people do realize how expensive it is though. I’m not quite sure about the past, but in more recent times Lululemon has responded to customer complaints by saying if they bring their products to the store with a problem there is a possibility of a replacement pair free of charge. People are aware how expensive the price is, but because of this they expect the product to be of a higher quality than something you could get for a few dollars at H&M.

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  6. Lauren Smith April 28, 2015 / 2:47 am

    The incoming CEO and chairman will face the challenge of improving Lululemon’s image after months of snags in its production and distribution, including a major recall of its signature black yoga pants after the company said they were too sheer. However, now as Lululemon restores the product(s) under some new executive hires, it will need to regain customer loyalty as it moves to rapidly expand beyond North America. In just the 14 years since Wilson founded Lululemon, it has grown into a $1.4 billion US a year high-end athletic wear destination. But it now must iron out supply chain and quality wrinkles in its next phase of growth under new leadership. With Laurent taking over leadership after being former president of TOM shoes, I believe he will do a great job in leading the company back in the right direction as he already has. I have recently, especially while being in college, noticed so many people both men and women who sport Lululemon athletic apparel and accessories even when college students are on a tight budget and their products are quite expensive. This is because the brand is popular and very much so desired between both young people and exercise enthusiasts. With TOMs being such a positive brand, I have recently found that Lululemon has swam in that direction as well, wether it be with their inspirational and eco-friendly bags or their positive quote water bottles they sell. I hope this company has gotten back on track and continues to prosper.

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  7. Charlie O'Connor May 7, 2015 / 9:32 pm

    Ole Chip Wilson did not do the greatest job handling the criticism of Lululemon, I would agree. It’s difficult to understand how a senior executive at any company could lack the wherewithal to offer an appropriate apology. I don’t wear yoga pants but I enjoy seeing them, I do have a couple “pieces” from Lululemon and I think they’re a great company. Leadership needs to take responsibility once in a while and be humble and sincere in their apologies, warranted or not.

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