Catchin’ up: States with the most yoga studios, used Lululemons and …

Quick little potpourri of news for you.

First up, the Huffington Post published a map showing where there are the most yoga studios, per capita, across the United States. California and New York aren’t at the top, although Colorado is close. Find it here.

Secondly, because we’ve consistently touched on all things Lululemon, you may have heard that “used” Lululemons can cost a ton. From the Racked article:

When it comes to the Lululemon resale market, Nobles is far from unique. Hundreds of thousands of people are active members of this underground community. There are more than 100 private Facebook groups dedicated to buying and selling both new and used Lululemon items; over on eBay, countless sellers list Lululemon products with 1000 percent markups. Lulu running shorts can go for upwards of $800, as can the brand’s vaunted leggings. Bras easily resell for $250, while tanks are listed for $500.

[snip]

The most glaring cause for this underground market, though, is Lulu’s merchandising strategy. Since its founding in 1998, Lululemon has run on a scarcity model: It only releases a certain amount of each style and doesn’t replenish stock once its sold out. Lulu maintains hype among its devoted shoppers by releasing new items every single week, but the scarcity of each piece means enthusiasts lust after sold-out goods.

And there were those Hillary Clinton memes.

Posted by Steve

All you ever wanted to know about Lululemon

When it comes to the ridiculously named  Lululemon, I have a clear conscience. The first time I walked into a store, a slightly smug salesperson asked me if she could be of some assistance. I said I was looking for a good pair of yoga pants that could take a beating. When I saw the price tag on the pair of pants that could theoretically take a beating, I thanked her kindly, walked out, and headed to Old Navy. For that much money, they should do the Ashtanga for me.

Since then, Steve’s given me a couple pairs, and I like ’em, but I’m not nuts about ’em. After the series of awkward and downright offensive blunders by the now former CEO, Chip Wilson, I think I can safely say that I won’t be getting any more of them–the Ayn Rand connection alone would scare him out of the store. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, reporter Amy Wallace has published a piece in New York Times Magazine about the whole sordid mess, along with a little delving into the Mind of Chip. This quote from the interview will make you feel good about moving those Lululemon pants into the back of the rotation:

“I think that Lululemon was so successful because I was probably the only straight guy that was making women’s apparel, and I knew what a guy liked,” Wilson told me. “Girls ended up wearing it, and guys commented on it.”

I don’t even know what that means (“guys commented on it”? on what, exactly? and what form did that take? hoots and wolf whistles?), but I can identify a hyper-abundance of arrogance when I hear it. Wilson’s piece is a pretty fascinating read, summarizing the growth and rise of Lululemon, and setting the stage for the spin-off company Wilson’s wife, Shannon and son J.J. have started, Kit and Ace (the description of the target consumer will make you visibly cringe). Wilson peppers her interview with some pithy analysis, like this bit:

More than once, the way Wilson spoke reminded me of the airhead fashion model Ben Stiller plays in “Zoolander.” But for all his off-putting and impolitic utterances (in a blog post about Lululemon’s origins, he infamously linked the use of birth control to rising divorce rates, and claimed this led to his future market), he has a kind of genius for forecasting trends and assessing the human impulses — vanity, insecurity, the yearning for perfection — that make people pay more for something they could buy much cheaper elsewhere.

Clearly Mr. Wilson is getting ready to reboot, but has not yet figured out he’s best in the background.

You can also check out the Amy Wallace interview with Madeline Brand on our local superstation, KCRW–on Brand’s show, Press Play.

Posted by Bobbie

The latest Lululemon fiasco is just funny

You can check all of Lululemon’s previous PR disasters right here.

Let’s be thankful the latest one is just funny — no sexism or racism involved. Well, maybe anti-Buffaloism, if there is such a thing. So this may not be funny if you are a Buffalo Bills or Sabres fan.

Check it out:

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (LULU) apologized to sports fans in Buffalo, New York, after it drew ire for the phrase “Wide Right / No Goal” spelled out in tile on the floor of a local store, a reference to painful losses that the city suffered in football and hockey.

“We want the Buffalo community to know that we have heard them and we are sorry,” Paul Zaengle, senior vice president of U.S. retail, said in an e-mailed statement. “We get that this didn’t land well, and we want to make it right. We have covered up the mosaic and are having it removed.”

“Wide Right” alludes to kicker Scott Norwood’s missed field goal attempt that ended the Buffalo Bills’ hopes for a Super Bowl win against the New York Giants in 1991. “No Goal,” meanwhile, evokes the Buffalo Sabres’ 1999 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Dallas Stars on a questionable goal.

Apparently there was a firestorm on the Twitter in response; it all began when a fan posted a photo of the tile/mosaic mentioned above.

Has Lululemon fired its ad agency yet?

Posted by Steve

What’s happening with Lululemon? Its founder is getting rich(er?)

If you don’t recall all the happenings with Lululemon, click here for on ongoing, occasionally reluctant coverage.

There’s some pretty big new news today, which can be summed up as: Founder Chip Wilson is rich. If he wasn’t already. Here’s the news via the New York Times:

Under the terms of the deal reached Thursday, Mr. Wilson, known as Chip, will sell half of his roughly 27 percent stake in the company to Advent International, a private equity firm, for $845 million. The retailer will also give Advent — which had previously invested in the company — two director seats, expanding the board to 12 members.

One of those new directors, an Advent managing partner, David Mussafer, will become co-chairman alongside the company’s current chairman, Michael Casey.

In return, Advent and Mr. Wilson have agreed not to wage a proxy fight for two years.

Pretty similar take is here from the LA Times.

Is anybody still buying Lululemon products?

Posted by Steve

Yes, Lululemon has another customer-relations problem

Feel like, to be consistent — as in keeping a six-day-a-week practice — we need to acknowledge that Lululemon once again is under fire for some corporate missteps.

This time, it’s all in reaction to the company’s trying to block customers from re-selling its clothing.

Here’s how the Vancouver Sun sums things up:

Lululemon has issued an apology after banning some customers from buying its products online for reselling its yoga wear on eBay or other websites.

The situation arose after Eric Lewis, founder of the blog LuluMen, said he was warned by the yoga retailer that he would be blacklisted from using their online store after he tried to sell a pair of new Lululemon pants on eBay that he had bought at a warehouse sale. He posted his concerns on the company website, prompting other customers to speak out against the policy.

Therese Hayes, senior vice-president, communications and sustainability for Lululemon Athletica, said in an emailed statement Thursday that Lewis was never blocked from online shopping, but admitted others were.

You can click on the above link to get more from Hayes. Short version: Supposedly they were trying to target people who did large re-sells. Uh huh.

Posted by Steve

Lululemon’s run of success may finally be coming to an end

Bikram backlash. Yoga patent lawsuits. Now, Lululemon’s losing stock value.

The Kali Yuga, for sure, right?

After Lululemon’s founder announced this past week he was stepping down as chairman, things haven’t taken a turn for the better for the yoga clothing company.

Check out this report from Friday:

Lululemon Athletica Inc.’s shares fell for a second day on Friday following a disappointing forecast from the yoga clothing company.

The retailer’s leaders said Thursday that its image problems are starting to take a toll on its business. The company also said that it expects a key sales figure to be flat in the next quarter and trimmed its outlook for the year. Lululemon also noted that customer traffic in its stores slowed in November.

[snip]

Lululemon also said that it now expects earnings for the year between $1.94 and $1.96 on revenue around $1.61 billion. That’s down from its prior forecast of $1.94 to $1.97 per share on revenue between nearly $1.63 billion and $1.64 billion.

Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss lowered his rating on the company to “Neutral” from “Outperform” and dropped his target price to $59 from $78. He said in a research note that the weak forecast suggests demand is weakening for the company’s products. He said the company’s missteps, along with the increase of lower-price knockoffs, are hurting demand.

You think?

Posted by Steve

The thighs have it: Lululemon founder quits as chairman

Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon and the guy responsible for the series of recent gaffes — fat thighs, etc. — is stepping down as chairman of the yoga clothes company, the company announced Tuesday.

In I’m sure totally related news, no one today was surprised by this.

The company also has appointed a new CEO. Laurent Potdevin takes over for Christine Davis, who announced her plans to leave in June — before Wilson’s latest stuff but after the initial Lululemon-gate — that being the too sheer pants fiasco.

According to reports, Potdevin comes from Toms Shoes, where he served as president. And before that he was at Burton Snowboards, including a stint as CEO from 2005 to 2010.

On top of all this, if you haven’t seen the little bits of news here and there, there does seem to be a growing push-back against the company by former “Ambassadors” — those yoga teachers who get free Lululemon schwag — who are renouncing their ties to the company over its “non yogic business practices.”

As far as I can tell, these un-Ambassadors’ reasons range from the legit — not being comfortable with the Randian philosophy of the company as well as the public actions of Wilson — to the fairly silly — thinking that a company won’t put profits ahead of everything else, or at least on equal standing as “civic good.”

It is a business, after all.

Now, we can watch and see how that business does under new leadership. Drawing someone in from Toms seems to make sense: Similar core customers, similar “do good” image that has taken hits on and off.

Posted by Steve

Sheer insanity. Lululemon-gate. Too much asana. Call it what you will

Sigh. I feel like we have to have this one on the record here. A link on Facebook just wasn’t enough.

Lululemon has had to pull its super popular Luon black yoga pants because they are too darned revealing. Yeah, all those high school principals everywhere were on to something!

No, it’s actually a little more specific than that. It’s a recent run of the pants that’s the issue, about 17% of stock. Apparently due to “quality control” issues, there isn’t enough material to cover your “sitting bones,” as the backside is so delicately referred to in yoga rooms.

The reason I feel compelled to have it on the record is not because I think it is a super significant story, although Lululemon’s stock did drop as much as 5% on the news and the company is saying that there will be a shortage of the pants for a while. It’s because everyone else does. Here’s just a few of the stories:

The company is in full-on crisis mode. From its webpage (and for those who need to know more, its media release is here):

At the beginning of March, our stores and ecommerce site received some black luonwomen’s bottoms that didn’t meet our high standards. The materials used in construction were the same but the coverage was not, resulting in increased sheerness. We want you to Down Dog and Crow with confidence and we felt these pants didn’t measure up.

We keenly listen to your feedback and it is paramount to us that you know we’re listening. We are 100% committed to doing the right thing for our guests and living our standards. It is with these intentions in mind that we’ve pulled the affected product from our floors and website.

[snip]

We are committed to making things right so if you purchased product from our store or on our website and you think it is too sheer, we welcome you to return it for a full refund or exchange. If you have any questions please click here for more information, visit any of our stores or contact our Guest Education Centre at 1.877.263.9300.

Full refunds? That’s, what, like $550? I can only imagine what John Galt might think.

Update: You’ve seen it, but let’s keep everything in a neat package. Jimmy Kimmel’s PSA:

Posted by Steve

Just chillin’ in Encinitas, nothing’s getting me down

Bobbie and I are both down in Encinitas; she’s about four hours into her first day with Tim Miller at his Second Series teacher training. I’ve spent three hours in the car getting down here; some time grabbing lunch in downtown Encinitas; about 30 minutes forgetting various accouterment needed for the beach (first a towel, then my hat, etc.), finally got to the beach for a few hours, got in a couple of swims, then skateboarded by the Encinitas Self Realization Fellowship to see what the surf was like at Swami’s.

And tonight there’s a welcome dinner at Tim’s.

Why do I tell you this? Well, obviously to make you jealous. It’s about as warm as it gets by the beach in Southern California — easily 80 — and just about the perfect SoCal day.

No, I kid. It’s because I am relaxed and thus as I just sit here, almost able to see the ocean from the couch, I’m extremely chill when I read a few mainstream media stories on yoga, which all offer a fairly dramatic counterpoint to each other.

Normally, I’d feel that wee bit of frustration I get over the ill-painting of yoga. (Yeah, I know, I need to work on that.) But today… it’s all good.

One’s in the Los Angeles Times, about the burgeoning Wanderlust festival. Then there’s a piece by Reuters on Lululemon’s suing Gap and Calvin Klein. The other, in the Globe and Mail, is about yoga activism or politicization.

I think I’m on the record as being somewhat hesitant about, as the Globe piece titles it, “how yoga is turning into a protest movement.” As I dive into the thought behind yoga (I took a commentary on Patanjali with me to the beach), I focus on how we’re supposed to improve ourselves, find our way to the Atman. But I also recognize the import of the Karma Yoga in the Gita.

Let’s just say that marrying them isn’t settled with me, yet.

I suggest these pieces are at odds not because Wanderlust isn’t politically active (I don’t know one way or the other), but because if you’re just a casual reader of the Times, I think you’d come away with an image of a big dance party gathering focused on fun. The Globe story, by contrast, touches on India’s Baba Ramdev and Off the Mat Into the World (which I know crosses over into Wanderlust):

But there also is what Roseanne Harvey, a Montreal yoga teacher and the co-editor of a new book, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, & Practice, calls an awakening of “the political body.”

“With this larger wave of commercialization, hybridization and brand identification, there is also a countercultural wave calling out for a more engaged and politicized way of living,” she says.

She also insists there is no fundamental disconnect between the deeper roots of meditative yoga and political involvement – and that a focus on compassion, truth and justice is essential for the practice to remain relevant.

[snip]

The unorthodox activism, Ms. den Otter acknowledges, has sparked a backlash from more traditional yogis, who fear political ideologies may infect the spiritual sanctuary of the studio. “Our answer,” she says, “is to bring yoga into the politics, rather than politics into the yoga.”

But the reality, insists Chelsea Roff, the managing editor of a yoga blog founded by the daughter of bestselling guru Deepak Chopra, “is that we’re already engaging politically. We ‘vote’ every day. Every time I buy a latte at Starbucks, I’m supporting the way they treat people who grow their coffee. Everyone would benefit from bringing more awareness to how we’re engaging.”

Now, contrast that with this from the Times:

This four-day yoga retreat by day, dance party by night is the sort of event that could only happen if a pair of indie rock producers shared office space with an internationally renowned yoga teacher. Which is exactly how Wanderlust, which comes to Santa Monica in abbreviated form in September, was born.

Yoga is one, the other, both? Both, I’m sure we’d all agree — but, again, a casual reader might be left to wonder.

Then there’s the piece about Lululemon and lawsuits. If you are interested in the “business of yoga,” it’s a worthwhile read. But if you are either a political yogi or yogini or of the dance-party version, it could rub you the wrong way:

Founded in 1998, Lululemon took Canada and then the United States by storm with costly, colorful, fashionable workout gear targeted at professional young women. Its shares are up seven-fold since its 2007 initial public offering, and now trade at 46 times earnings.

De Beer compared Lululemon’s suit to tech sector patent wars, such as the high-profile trial between Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, now drawing to a close.

“The business strategy is to deter other people from even trying to copy designs, because it’s going to cause them legal problems,” he said.

Not exactly “yogic,” right? But I bet Lululemon is among the first thing most people would identify with yoga at this point.

One last thing to leave you with as I get ready to head to Tim’s. Two quick quotes from the stories, first the Times and then the Globe: “But this time they also raise a collective glass and call out with enthusiasm not usually displayed by a bunch of lithe-bodied Lululemon-clad yoginis.” “More practically, most of the millions of students who have lately discovered the joy of yoga are too busy perfecting asanas in hip leisurewear at hot-yoga studios to join campaigns for reform.”

That’s sort of to prove my point. It’s also the type of thing that has been known to set me off a bit. Today, though, I’m chill. And I promise, the rest of the week, recounts of Tim.

Posted by Steve

Bleh. Have to cover this Lululemon story as founder steps down

Remember all the Lululemon-Ayn Rand stories from last fall?

Well, the man behind them — and Lululemon, itself — is stepping down from his post as a company executive, although Chip Wilson’s staying on its board.

This news via Forbes, as well as Rose at YogaRose, who tipped me too it. Apparently, she knows I’m obsessed by all things Lululemon.

Wilson didn’t give an explanation for his departure, but did say: “I feel comfortable leaving the company with [my replacement] Christine Day at the helm of a world class management team whom I fully believe will continue to elevate our world.”

Wilson has parlayed his company into a spot on Forbes billionaires’ list. He’s worth a cool $1.9 billion.

Rand would be proud of that, no doubt!

OK, speculation time:

It would seem after the negative publicity from his Ayn Rand shopping bag PR stunt, that this might be a way to move the company forward. (Forbes said its stock is up a bit after today’s news.) That’s a pretty straight-forward way to handle such things. Until Wilson says more, I suspect it will be the default explanation.

Also in play might be the hit-and-miss take on Lululemon’s stock recently. Lots of watchers still are “bullish” on the company, but others are starting to question how long it can continue to build and expand. Perhaps now seemed a good time for a bit of a “clean break” at the top.

Or maybe he just wants to executive produce the next Rand movie.

Posted by Steve