Off with their heads! That may have been the cry from yoga apparel maker Lululemon‘s board of directors, which was likely behind the resignation of two key executives after an embarrassing and costly incident. The company had to recall their signature Luon yoga pants after customers complained that they revealed more than just good form in yoga classes. The switch from opaque fabric set Lululemon back to the tune of $140 million, with a drop in stock prices. As the sheer pants exposed more tails, heads were sure to roll.
First to go was Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson, who left the company in April. And yesterday, Christine Day announced she would be stepping down from her position as Lululemon’s CEO after nearly six years. PR was spun far thicker than the fabric that caused the problems in the first place. Day calmly called the move a “personal decision,” adding that she would stay on until a successor was named. This was, of course, meant to sound like all were in agreement and yogically serene.
The stock market was not quite so zen. Lululemon’s shares fell 12 percent in the wake of the news, which brings up the question of not only when to fire, but if. Yes, this was a costly mistake, and certainly an embarrassment for one of the most successful athletic apparel chains around. But the beheading, following the mistake, may have taken things from bad to worse.
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lululemon. Too much unrest in this high-end clothing company is making them look bad.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Sometimes, it’s better to let sleeping (downward) dogs lie, at least for a while. A given in any business is that mistakes will be made, and a large part of any good PR department’s work is cleaning up after the initial mess. But once that’s done, why create another mess, just as the public is forgetting about it all? It’s the job of any good PR to advise execs about potential fallout resulting from drastic moves. They won’t want to hear it, but they’re sure to look for someone to blame when they find themselves in an even more painful position.