Stretched Thin: Problems Plague Lululemon

High-end women’s fitness clothing company Lululemon Athletica seems unable to catch a break this year. In March, the company was forced to recall its line of stretch yoga pants after customers complained that the pants are see-through. It was revealed that though the pants’ thin material looks fine when standing, it becomes sheer when stretched during exercise. The recall included 17 percent of Lululemon’s fitness pants and cost an estimated $60 million.

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While Lululemon surely thought that their “transparency” problems were behind them, the problem reared its head again in early November when CEO Chip Wilson appeared on Bloomberg TV’s Street Smart.  When asked about the recall, he said:

 “Frankly, some women’s bodies actually don’t work for it… It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time, and how they much they use it.”

While Lululemon’s co-founder Shannon Wilson attempted to jump in and clarify that the $70 to $100 pants really became an issue because of the materials with which users came in contact, the damage was already done. He essentially blamed consumers for the problems and claimed that some women’s bodies are incompatible with their clothing. You can watch the video here. 

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Predictably,  users of Lululemon’s yoga pants reacted negatively online. “A company that truly supports health and connectivity and community would never even think of blaming women and their bodies for the failure of crappy, overpriced products,” wrote one user on Facebook.   Another  said, “Please remind your company that if you are going to promote love and positive body image on their webpage, you probably shouldn’t say we are too fat to wear your pants.”

How would you have handled the situation? What would a better response have been from Lululemon’s CEO?

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6 Responses to Stretched Thin: Problems Plague Lululemon

  1. Charlotte Das says:

    This is definitely the wrong response to all of Lululemon’s problems, especially coming directly from the founder. When you are in the fitness/lifestyle/clothing industry, you have to be sensitive to all body types that your customers have. For some men/women it’s not as easy to lose weight, even if they are healthy and active. There are a lot of other factors that go into it. So it doesn’t help that the founder of Lululemon is saying that not all people can wear his clothes. He should have apologized for the problems that they have had this year and told the public that he was working on new ways to make pants that fit everyone and their lifestyles.

  2. Katlyn Orton says:

    I read about this last week and I was so surprised that they actually said something like this. Not only was it extremely rude and uncalled for, but I like how you mentioned that it also put the blame on the customer instead of taking responsibility. He should have kept his opinions to himself and simply made some sort of statement about how they are working on higher quality products to avoid the same transparency problem. A side note is that the company recently got in another publicity blunder last week when when they were accused of making fun of a charity in Dallas. (http://www.businessinsider.com/lululemon-ignites-outrage-with-sign-targeting-a-charity-2013-10) I think that a campaign along of the lines of a women empowerment or something similar to Dove’s body campaign would be beneficial to help reposition themselves at this point.

  3. Leila O'Hara says:

    This is potentially the worst type of response the CEO could have made in this crisis. Instead of accepting the blame, addressing the problem and talking about a solution, the CEO brought more negative attention to the company by placing the blame on the very people whose trust he is attempting to gain back, the stakeholders. Now instead of being able to move on from this major PR crisis that cost the company millions, Lululemon’s stakeholders will hold on to the damage done by the crisis now that Wilson has brought it back into the public’s mind in a negative way. If the crisis continues to be emphasized, Lululemon may have to undertake a major rebranding effort to no longer be identified as an expensive, athletic apparel company with poorly made products. The damage done to the company’s reputation will have to be addressed in all future PR efforts.

  4. Janslle Ong says:

    I think the the CEO’s response was very wrong. As a CEO of a high profile/high profit company, he should be more cautious with his words. They rely on their customers’ review and word of mouth to sell the overpriced sports wear. They should not criticize women that “cause” the rubbing of the yoga pants. This is not what a sporting company should be doing and I think Lululemon deserves all the backlash. If I were the CEO, I would apologize and say they are willing to discount their next purchase or maybe even offer a refund; good customer service is what makes a company successful.

  5. Fernando Aguilar says:

    As a company, you can’t blame the consumer if a product does not meet expectations. That has to be dealt with internally, projected as an image of security and stability within the organization and then to the external public.

  6. Marlee Bever says:

    I am honestly worried about the state of the company. If Lululemon continues to have issues like these arise, customers are going to begin to lose faith in them. Especially for a company that charges $100 plus for just pants, they can not make distasteful comments. I agree with Charlotte that the CEO should have apologized for all of the problems that the company has had so far, and he should be accommodating to everyone’s body types.

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