Yoga outfitter Lululemon has found itself in a compromising position. The company, a fast-rising star in the competitive world of athletic apparel, had to recall its signature black Luon yoga pants after they were found to be “too sheer” causing embarrassment for yoginis showing off more than a good downward dog.
The recall generated widespread coverage in the business and general press, not only because it gave rise to some great headlines but because there is stiff competition in the world of yoga apparel. Lululemon after all, is well known for keeping stocks deliberately lo, to create buying fervour. Well-known yoga instructors are enlisted as “Lululemon ambassadors.” One does not merely buy clothes at Lululemon; the company is known for its cult-like following and creation of a lifestyle brand.
Lululemon’s stock took an 8 percent hit on the news of the recall and as the company looks to expand beyond it current 200 stores in Canada and the US, there are signs of ongoing growing pains. See-through pants and non-colorfast tops have led to questions about management and some worrying financials: a $20 million loss in first quarter sales, and stock price that is down 18 percent for 2013. The company’s plans for future expansion look like they could be running into trouble.
THE PR VERDICT: “D” (PR Problematic) for Lululemon and the stresses it has placed on yogini brand loyalty.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Own up, take action, and restore quality quickly. When a company positions its brand as a “friend” it must bend over backwards to avoid making enemies and in this crisis Lululemon didn’t hesitate to apologize, clear shelves of the sheer pants, and offer refunds. But as Lululemon’s yoga pants retail for $98 a pair; fans are buying the promise of high quality and when that fails, watch the cult-like following turn and buy the competitors’ less expensive apparel. What’s needed now after the refunds and recalls are completed, is to assure yoginis and stockholders, that a review of suppliers and management controls is taking place and permanent changes have been made. In other words, strike a pose of action.