Lululemon is a very appreciated brand by yoga practitioners, pilates and running, although his fame has spread beyond spas, gyms and tartan tracks. In fact, several specialized media point out that the Canadian firm was the pioneer of athleisure (term product of athletic and leisure in English), a dominant style in urban fashion. Leggings, sweatshirts and other garments are carried more and more in avenues, shopping centers and, even, footbridges. Sports and haute couture companies participate in this millionaire market.
Dennis Chip Wilson, founder of Lululemon, commented in an interview with CNBC that the term athleisure it seems weak. "Leisure is the last thing we look for. First we concentrate on the garment fulfilling its function and then on the appearance, not the other way around ". In 2017, the company had a sales figure of 2,649 million dollars (2,343 million euros) and expects to exceed 3,200 million this year.
The shares are up 136% since 2017 and the market value is already 16,200 million dollars
Wilson, who is no longer on the company's board, he managed to combine with his two favorite spheres: sports and business. He studied economics at the University of Calgary and, in 1979, he created Westbeach Snowboard, a clothing firm for skiing, skating and surfing. He sold the company years later. And found in yoga courses that people performed this activity with uncomfortable clothes, away from aesthetics and without effective perspiration. Thus, he detected a business opportunity and founded Lululemón in Vancouver in 1998.
The company's products began to be much in demand on the west coast of Canada (I only had one store in the Kitsilano neighborhood). A few years later, he decided to open branches in other Canadian cities and in the United States with great success. Currently, Lululemon has 415 stores spread across North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. It employs 13,400 people and sells online in 80 countries.
In 2017, he launched a global advertising campaign to position himself in activities such as surfing, volleyball and swimming. It was the first strategy of its kind since its founding, as Wilson chose for almost 20 years to use media known as "experiential marketing". For example, each time the firm planned to open a branch, they contacted yoga teachers to give them garments and thus attract the attention of the students. It also offers yoga courses in establishments and organizes sports competitions. And the stores have a section where customers can make suggestions to make future models.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 95% of Lululemon garments are purchased by customers at a maximum price. They are rare rebates in their stores and the firm offers a limited number of each product, setting an idea of exclusivity. Robin Lewis, an expert in retail, included in a 2015 report to Lululemon within a group of companies, such as Apple and Burberry, capable of creating "addictive experiences" among their customers.
Dennis Wilson created the firm in Vancouver in 1998. Today it has 415 stores around the world
Several Lululemon garments have prices two or three times higher than those of their competitors. Fidelity and exclusivity foster it, but the comfort of the clothes and their careful design are fundamental. All these aspects explain why the clientele began to use it outside of sports spaces, with the appearance of athleisure.
"It was about offering the client a comfortable and durable product, but above all, versatile, to be able to transform from sportswear to elegant", according to Jocelyn Bellemare, professor at the School of Fashion of the University of Quebec in Montreal. Bellemare emphasizes the increasing value of physical activity and the desire to project a balanced image. "In this case, the clothes become a kind of superhero costume," he says.
Wilson is also known for his controversial opinions. The most remembered one was pronounced in 2013, when some of the brand's yoga pants were recalled due to complaints about their quality. Then he told Bloomberg: "They just did not fit the bodies of some women." He apologized time later. Bellemare explains that the mediatization of the case had an impact for the firm in the Stock Exchange. But the value of the stock rebounded gradually. "He would have suffered a stronger blow if he had not had such a high degree of loyalty among his clientele. The memory is short when you go shopping, "he says.
Wilson had already sold 48% of the company in 2005 to Advent International and Highland Capital Partners. Lululemon is listed on the Nasdaq and, with a revaluation of 136% since 2017, its capitalization amounts to 16.2 billion dollars. In 2014, after the interview with Bloomberg, he resigned as president and got rid of half of the shares he still owned. A change in the rudder that also caused controversies. Laurent Potdevin became CEO in 2014 and resigned in 2018. "Lululemon expects all employees to exemplify the highest standards of integrity and mutual respect, and Mr. Potdevin did not meet these standards of conduct," the company reported. briefly.
The firm suffered no losses after the departure of the executive. In fact, their numbers do not stop growing. In the second quarter of 2018, its revenues were 723.5 million dollars, 25% more than the previous year. Lululemon has benefited from the increase in online sales and its expansion in the Asian market. Calvin McDonald, new CEO, said just 10 days after taking office in August, when the results of the second semester were announced: "I have chosen to focus my career in retail and brand creation. I am also an athlete. Combining my professional passions with my personal ambitions makes this opportunity very exciting. "