The first time I heard of Lululemon I was on a weekend marketing retreat with a number of women at the invitation of Nfinity, a wonderful women’s athletic footwear company. I was a last minute replacement for a woman who had to beg out. Most of the ladies were aware of Lululemon and sang its praises. They loved the category (yoga), styles (great looking, great fitting) but what they spoke most about was quality. I’ve never done downward dog in my life, but to hear them talk I was ready to buy.
Come Christmas, off I went to buy the wifus some Lululemon yoga pants. Trying to explain hip size using your own hips to a young, comely salesperson is uncomfortable. But successful I was and I opted for a yoga mat too, hedging my bet. Hee hee.
As I read about Lulu’s quality problems today, which include previous grievances about material pitting, seam unraveling and color bleeding, I see how far the company have come. Backwards. Even with sales and revenue up thirty plus YOY, someone has taken their eye off the ball. (Not sure if their equity partners or public stock offering put undue pressure on the company, but quality has faltered, even as the brand had grown.)
Quality is a tough brand plank to build around. It’s most important in categories where it’s not common. Otherwise, quality is the price of entry. But in yoga, where stress and strain and exertion are part of the experience it’s not a bad play. Lululemon needs a quality facelift. And fast! Peace.