2013 was a rough year for lululemon. The brand endured a succession of PR disasters, leading to the resignation of the founder and board chairman, Chip Wilson. So last week, the company wrapped up the 2013 fiscal year by announcing their game plan for 2014. On the menu: taking “control of the discussion” around the brand and being more “inclusive.”
Noting that lululemon has been “voiceless” in the midst of controversy after controversy for much of 2013, newly hired CEO Laurent Potdevin said one of the main technology investments this year is focused on CRM, which will help with “understanding our guests at a more micro level” and personalizing the retail experience.
“When you go back a year, lululemon has been in the headlines like every other week and has not participated in pretty much any of those discussions,” Potdevin explained, which tempered the effect of all the “meaningful work” the brand’s 900 ambassadors do in communities across the U.S. Many of the retailer’s employees had to “play defense” throughout much of 2013, he said.
While it’s no secret that lululemon was served its share of humble pie in 2013, Potdevin believes the company can change the conversation back in its favor. “We know we don’t need to go to traditional marketing strategies,” he added, though the company must find a way to “take control of the discussion.”
And because competition in active lifestyle apparel has proliferated in recent years, retaining loyal customers is more important than ever, with Potdevin acknowledging, “we’re not the only game in town.”
After taking a beating in the media over controversial comments about women’s bodies and the limited range of sizes it offers, lululemon also needs to make a concerted effort to become more “inclusive,” he says, offering no details on how exactly the heretofore exclusive brand aims to achieve this end.
While it’s unclear how lululemon will become more inclusive, we’re already seeing signs of the brand taking the reigns of the discussion. They’ve just announced The Practice of Leadership Series, conversations “about conscious and compassionate leadership in the modern world” taking place at upcoming Yoga Journal conferences. The first conversation will be on Saturday, April 26, 2014 in New York City. The event page promises, “In this session, we will take on the delicate balance of spiritual values and corporate responsibility featuring community leaders, social change activists and lululemon leadership. It will be an open and honest dialogue that gets at the heart of our practice, our role as conscious leaders and how to create community in conflict.”
The event is presented by Yoga Journal LIVE!, Off the Mat, Into the World and lululemon, and producers have selected an interesting mix of “experts.” Seane Corn and Hala Khouri, founders of OTM, will facilitate a panel that includes Laurent Potdevin, Delaney Schweitzer and Rachel Acheson of lululemon; Carol Horton, blogger and author Yoga PhD; Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, professor and wellness activist; and Andrea Marcum, founder of U Studio Yoga.
Let’s see what direction this conversation takes. Likely, a direction that will be favourable for lululemon, since they’re the masterminds behind the conversation.