Lululemon Keeps Digging Itself into a Hole

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Lululemon Athletica Inc. is one of the leading athletic apparel companies for yoga, running, and other workout wear. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Lululemon has caused controversy, from the remarks made by the company founder Chip Wilson to the recent banning of IP addresses of customers. An effective marketing strategy includes a positive brand voice and recognition, but Lululemon Athletica continues to attract negative publicity.

Well known for his PR snafus, Chip Wilson provided the initial vision and design savvy behind the powerhouse brand of Lululemon Athletica. Since the company's inception in 1998, Wilson has never been afraid to share his opinions on a wide variety of topics. In March 2009 on the Lululemon Athletica blog site, Wilson writes about the prominence of breast cancer in women in the 1990s and suggests it was due to the fact that women were on birth control, smoking, and taking on many of the stresses that was previously left for men. More recently in 2013 when the company began receiving complaints concerning the quality of yoga pants, Wilson suggested that it wasn't the integrity of the product that was the problem. Instead, he suggested, some women's bodies were just not made for yoga pants. After the last remark, Lululemon's January sales dropped 17 percent.

In hopes of saving the brand and avoiding further Lululemon controversy, Wilson will step down as the company's chairman in front of the company's board meeting in June 2014. He holds nearly 9 percent of the company, so he will retain a seat on the board. The company also announced that Laurent Potdevin will take over as the new CEO after the resignation of Christine Day, who managed Lululemon Athletica through the recalling of the overly sheer yoga pants, which led to a loss of over $17 million dollars. The hopes are the company will benefit from Potdevin, who has excellent communications skills, has worked with the media, and has proven herself when building global brands.

In a recent article in the New York Daily News, Lululemon found itself under fire once again after the management changes when it banned existing customers who resold clothes online. This Lululemon controversy was spurred when the company began blocking IP addresses of customers who sold their products from personal eBay accounts. After the complaints began coming in from customers, a spokesperson said the company reevaluated its policy and realized the company had gone too far in blocking customer's accounts. The goal was to prevent individuals from purchasing large quantities of the product and reselling at inflated prices, but this backfired. The company eventually apologized.

The success of a company depends on the brand voice and how it treats its customers. Even after numerous attempts to recover from PR missteps, Lululemon Athletica continues to find itself in the middle of controversies—ones that have affected the bottom line and the fate of the company.


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