lululemon athletica Inc. (/ˌluːluːˈlɛmɪn/), styled as lululemon athletica, is a Canadian athletic apparel retailer. It is a self-described yoga-inspired athletic apparel company for women and men. The company makes a variety of types of athletic wear, including performance shirts, shorts, and pants, as well as lifestyle apparel and yoga accessories. The company was originally based in Canada, but has expanded to selling its products internationally in both store fronts and via their online platform, lululemon.com. While the brand is known for its stylish and high-quality items, it is often criticized for being “cultish, faddish and overpriced.” The brand attempts to adopt a genuine, customer-education focus, but has been questioned as to whether it truly practices what it preaches. Key competitors include Athleta, Nike and Under Armour.
The company was founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson in Vancouver, Canada. Initially, Lululemon was a design studio by day and a yoga studio by night, but eventually turned into a standalone store in November 2000. In 2001, the company began selling yoga wear. Christine Day, a former co-president of Starbucks International, became chief executive officer in June 2008. In December 2013, founder Chip Wilson announced his resignation as chairman, and that president of TOMS Shoes, Laurent Potdevin, would become CEO. In February 2014, the firm announced plans to open its first full store in Europe with a flagship shop in Covent Garden, London. Day announced her departure as CEO in June 2013 after one of the company's core products, black Luon yoga pants, were pulled due to the sheerness and lack of quality of the pants. In February 2015, Wilson announced that he had resigned from the board. Michael Casey, lead director of the board, replaced Wilson.
According to a company source, seventy percent of managers are hired internally. Store managers are responsible for their store's layout, color coordination, and community involvement.;
Lululemon sells a wide variety of athletic wear ranging from tops, pants, shorts, sweaters, jackets and undergarments in addition to lifestyle items including hair accessories, bags, yoga mats and water bottles. These products are designed to inspire physical activity amongst the consumers. Lululemon develops its products by using various technologies and fabrics in order to enhance its product line and enable its ability to address a more dynamic customer base. The company uses both waterproof technology, in addition to Silverescent (tag) and natural blend fabrics in the manufacturing of their products. The waterproof technology resists water from going inside the products, the Silverescent fabrics are for odor protection, and the natural blend fabrics are used for softness and usability.
It has been argued that lululemon athletica adopts a holistic guerrilla marketing model to dominate its marketing tactics. The use of holistic guerrilla marketing by the company is by linking the wearing of their clothing/products to feeling like part of a larger community. Thus, purchasing their product and supporting their brand becomes a solution to a problem. Consumers' purchases from lululemon become less about the commercial transaction, and more about how the individual feels the purchase contributes to their personal development.
Lululemon uses social media including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as one of its main methods of marketing the company and its products. Through social media such as Facebook, it holds live discussions with designers from the brand via posts and comments. It also feature photos and advertisements for its ‘products of the day,’ to keep its followers interested and actively thinking about the brand.
Lululemon has shown a consistent effort in incorporating sustainability into its business model. The company's corporate social responsibility strategy, "Community Legacy", os built around five elements: community, sourcing and manufacturing, people, efficiency and waste reduction, and green building spaces. Within these elements, sourcing and manufacturing, efficiency and waste reduction, and green building spaces contribute to lululemon's sustainability efforts. Sourcing and manufacturing involves the company setting high expectations for its suppliers and only working with those who share common values, such as concern for the environment and human health. Efficiency and waste reduction involves the company fostering relationships with environmental experts, implementing an environmental guide, and reducing its environmental footprint. Green building spaces involves the company's efforts in design and build spaces that create little or no waste.
In November 2007, The New York Times reported that lululemon made false claims about its Vitasea clothing product; the firm had claimed that its Vitasea clothing, made from seaweed, provided "anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits" but laboratory tests failed to find significant differences in mineral levels between cotton T-shirts and the fabric Vitasea. Lululemon was subsequently forced to remove all health claims from its seaweed-based products marketed in Canada, following a demand from a Canadian oversight agency, the Competition Bureau of Canada. A subsequent report in 2009 suggested that some yoga devotees saw the company's yoga image as an "annoying phony-baloney symbol" with criticism that its "positive messaging" is vague with slogans such as "friends are more important than money."
There were complaints about lululemon's clothing being poor quality with some items being "too sheer," as well as having holes appear and falling apart after a few uses. In December 2010, lululemon recalled some of the store's reusable bags that were made in China from polypropylene, based on reports of high levels of lead and concerns about possible lead poisoning. In March 2013, lululemon was hit by a large recall of its black yoga pants that were unintentionally transparent and "too thin"; the recall, which amounted to approximately 17% of all women's pants sold in its stores, impacted its financial results. The financial hit on earnings, and damage to the public image of the lululemon brand are credited with lululemon's Chief Product Officer, Sheree Waterson's forced departure.
Founder Chip Wilson has made numerous controversial statements. He said his company does not make clothes for plus-size women because it costs too much money. In an effort to explain the cause of excessive pilling in the brands clothing, he blamed some customers for wearing lululemon's clothes improperly or for having body shapes inconsistent with his clothes. During his interview for Bloomberg TV in November 2013, he said, "Frankly some women's bodies just don't actually work for it" and "it's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, how much they use it." According to one report, comments such as these led to Wilson's resignation as chairman. The statements were described in Time as "fat shaming" which led to much criticism among feminist blogs. The report suggested that it was company policy to discourage "plus-size customers" as part of its brand strategy since "no customer wants to endure the embarrassment of asking a clerk to go find a bigger size."
In June 2016, Wilson published an open letter to shareholders of lululemon stating that lululemon has “lost its way” and given up market share to Nike and Under Armour, after he was denied the opportunity to speak at the company's annual meetings.Since then, Wilson uses the website Elevate lululemon to share his vision for the brand and business.
In 2011, employee Brittany Norwood murdered colleague Jayna Murray at the Lululemon Athletica store in Bethesda, Maryland. The case received intense media attention and became known as the "Lululemon murder". This altercation began when Norwood attempted to steal a pair of Lululemon yoga pants. The scene quickly escalated and ultimately ended in the use of five different weapons and Murray receiving 331 different wounds, leading to her death.
In August 2012, lululemon filed suit against Calvin Klein and supplier G-III Apparel Group for infringement of three lululemon design patents for yoga pants. The lawsuit was somewhat unusual as it involved a designer seeking to assert Intellectual Property protection in clothing through patent rights. On November 20, 2012, lululemon filed a notice of voluntary dismissal in the Delaware courts based upon a private settlement agreement reached between the parties that dismissed the suit.