Lululemon Athletica

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lululemon athletica inc.
Traded as
FounderChip Wilson
Number of locations
440 (as of February 3, 2019)[1]
Area served
North America, Asia, Europe, Oceania
Key people
  • Glenn Murphy (Chairman)
  • Stuart Haselden
    (COO and CFO)
  • Celeste Burgoyne
    (EVP, Americas)
  • Sun Choe
    (SVP of Merchandising)
ProductsAthletic apparel
RevenueIncrease US$3.29 billion (2018)[1]
Increase US$705.84 million (2018)[1]
Increase US$483.80 million (2018)[1]
Total assetsIncrease US$2.08 billion (2018)[1]
Total equityDecrease US$1.45 billion (2018)[1]
Number of employees
15,700 (February 2019)[1]
Divisionslululemon Athletica
Ivivva Athletica

Lululemon athletica inc. (/ˌllˈlɛmɪn/), styled as lululemon athletica, is a Canadian athletic apparel retailer. Lululemon 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 sell its products internationally in both store fronts and online. Key competitors include Athleta, Zella, Adidas, Alo Yoga, Nike, and Under Armour.


The Lululemon Athletica store in Westport, Connecticut
Lululemon Athletica in Promenade

The company was founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson in Vancouver, British Columbia,[2] and sold its first pair of yoga pants that year.[3] In 2005, Wilson brought in investors to help oversee the company's initial public offering, including former Reebok executive Robert Meers.[4] Lululemon launched its IPO in July 2007, and raised $327.6 million after selling 18.2 million shares.[5]

Christine Day, a former co-president of Starbucks International, became chief executive officer in June 2008.[4] In 2013, the company made its third consecutive appearance on Fortune's Fastest-Growing Companies list.[4] In March of that year, the company received media coverage after it pulled a line of its signature yoga pants due to "an unacceptable level of sheerness".[4] A few months later, CEO Day resigned with little explanation.[6][4] In December 2013, founder Chip Wilson announced his resignation as chairman, and that president of TOMS Shoes, Laurent Potdevin, would become CEO.[7]

In February 2014, Lululemon announced plans to open its first full store in Europe, with a flagship shop in Covent Garden, London.[8] In February 2015, Wilson announced that he was resigning from the board,[9][10] and Michael Casey, former lead director of the board, would replace him.[11]

On February 5, 2018, Laurent Potdevin resigned as CEO and from the company's board.[12] Lululemon cited several incidents of unspecified misconduct as the reasons for Potdevin's departure.[13]

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility[edit]

Lululemon embraces sustainability to reduce their footprint on the environment and community. [14] Lululemon is a part of The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which ensures environmental impacts are measured and solutions are made. Energy use, greenhouse gas and air emissions, water use, waste and chemicals management are all areas that are closely monitored to ensure sustainability is maintained. [15] The company's corporate social responsibility, "Community Legacy", is built around five elements: community, sourcing and manufacturing, people, efficiency and waste reduction, and green building spaces.[16]


According to a company source, seventy percent of managers are hired internally.[17] Store managers are responsible for their store's layout, color coordination, and community involvement.[17]


Lululemon sells athletic wear including tops, pants, shorts, sweaters, jackets and undergarments,[3] as well as hair accessories, bags, yoga mats and water bottles.[18] Lululemon trademarked its original fabric, Luon, which included a higher-than-average amount of nylon microfiber, in 2005.[3] Since then, the company has produced several different types of fabrics, including compression and moisture-wicking designs.[3]

On August 8, 2017 lululemon expanded its offering into shoes. Partnering with APL (Athletic Propulsion Labs), lululemon will be offering an assortment of male and female footwear styles in 23 lululemon stores across North America. [19]

Lululemon maintains a research and development lab within its headquarters called Whitespace. The lab is made up of around 50 employees that include scientists and physiologists.[3]


Holistic guerrilla marketing model[edit]

It has been argued that Lululemon uses a holistic guerrilla marketing approach, through which wearing Lululemon clothing is linked to feeling like part of a larger community.[20] 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.[21]

Use of social media[edit]

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.[22] It also feature photos and advertisements for its "products of the day", to keep its followers interested and actively thinking about the brand.[22]


False advertising[edit]

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.[23] 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.[24] 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".

Product quality issues[edit]

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.[25][26] 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.[27] In March 2013, lululemon was hit by a large recall of its black yoga pants that were unintentionally transparent and "too thin";[28][29] the recall, which amounted to approximately 17% of all women's pants sold in its stores, impacted its financial results.[30] The financial loss and the damage to the public image of the lululemon brand are credited with the forced departure of lululemon's Chief Product Officer, Sheree Waterson.[31]

Controversial statements by founder[edit]

Founder Chip Wilson has made numerous controversial statements. In a 2004 interview, Wilson mocked Japanese pronunciation of the name of his company: "I was playing with [the letter] Ls and I came up with Lululemon. It's funny to watch them try to say it."[32] He has also said that his company does not make clothes for plus-size women because it costs too much money.[33] In an effort to explain the cause of excessive pilling in the brand's clothing, he blamed some customers for wearing lululemon's clothes improperly or for having body shapes inconsistent with his clothes.[34] 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."[34] According to one report, comments such as these led to Wilson's resignation as chairman.[35] 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."[36]

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.[37][38][39] Since then, Wilson uses the website Elevate lululemon to share his vision for the brand and business.[40][41]

Lululemon murder[edit]

In 2011, employee Brittany Norwood murdered colleague Jayna Murray at the Lululemon Athletica store in Bethesda, Maryland.[42] The case received intense media attention and became known as the "Lululemon murder".[42][43][44] 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.[45] Murray struggled to survive and was alive through most of the attack.[46]

Legal disputes[edit]

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.[47] 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.[48]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "2018 Annual Report". Retrieved 6 July 2019.
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  23. ^ Story, Louise (2007-11-14). "Seaweed Clothing Has None, Tests Show". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-11-14. Lululemon ... says the VitaSea clothing, made from seaweed fiber ... provides anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating and detoxifying benefits ... There is one problem with its VitaSea claims, however. Some of them may not be true.
  24. ^ "Lululemon VitaSea Clothing: Competition Bureau Takes Action to Ensure Unsubstantiated Claims Removed from Lululemon Clothing". Competition Bureau. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  25. ^ , "What Lululemon's revealing pants say about yoga". Los Angeles Times. "It seems that Lululemon, the Vancouver-based company, had to recall some of its yoga pants because they are too sheer. This is not, it turns out, a minor problem.'s not just the adorably named Lululemon that has a problem with see-through yoga pants. Many brands, when stretched just so, are sheer."
  26. ^ Michelle Chapman, AP Business Writer, November 1, 2013, USA Today, "New quality complaints about Lululemon pants: Just a few months after company pulled yoga wear from shelves, new quality issues arise". Retrieved May 6, 2015, "...New yoga pants ... recent complaints ... still too sheer... pants pilling after a few months of wear — or even just a few uses — and about holes and seams coming apart..."
  27. ^ Sinnema, Jodie (21 December 2010). "Lululemon issues recall for shopping bags due to lead risk". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved 6 May 2015. People who purchase yoga pants, hoodies or headbands from the more than 100 Lululemon stores in Canada, the U.S. and Australia often save such bags to carry their lunches to work
  28. ^ 13 February 2015, BBC, 'Yoga pants': Are leggings and other tight trousers indecent? Are yoga pants a threat to public decency? It might seem so after the beloved athletic wear once again made headlines - this time after a lawmaker debating public decency said the pants "should be illegal"., Retrieved May 11, 2015, "...2013 when Lululemon, a large clothes retailer, had to recall many of its leggings ... sheerness ..."
  29. ^ June 10, 2013, Tiffany Hsu, Los Angeles Times, Lululemon CEO Christine Day to step down after sheer-pants scandal, Retrieved May 6, 2015, "...The so-called Pantsgate scandal, in which Lululemon pulled all of its black yoga bottoms in March after deeming the luon fabric to be too thin,..."
  30. ^ Isidore, Chris (March 19, 2013). "See-through pants problem causes Lululemon recall". CNN Money. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
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  43. ^ Noble, Andrea (2011-10-24). "Selection of jury starts in Rockville". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2012-09-19.
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  48. ^ Weller, Susan Neuberger (November 27, 2012). "Lululemon and Calvin Klein Settle Yoga Pants Design Litigation". The National Law Review. Retrieved January 14, 2013.

External links[edit]