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:
- Ignore the claims
- Make a public apology to not his customers, but his employees for having to deal with the issue
- 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.