I admit it, I’m a dyed-in-the-Lycra, full-blown fan of Lululemon Athletica. I was one of the sharks in the holiday feeding frenzy for all things Lulu. On a visit last week after Christmas, I could hardly move around the 60 or so people I counted in the little store lusting after Lulu. They were spending gift cards, making exchanges and if they expected markdowns, they were sorely disappointed. This fashionable Canadian purveyor of athletic clothing has risen to cult status at full-price. This is a true fairy-tale ending to a lackluster holiday season for most retailers.
In a highly competitive apparel market Lululemon has proven that there is always still room for fresh design and a compelling brand experience. (I think the stores are bit dark, though). They churn out unique and creative silhouettes that flatter the athletic and not-so-athletic bodies of their adoring masses. They create demand for their feminine and tastefully sexy styles. They tout performance fabrications for real yoga and running aficionados, but the rest of us just love the great quality and are willing to pay for it. They have broken every rule of the old footwear apparel players. They make expensive, feminine, comfortable, durable and sometimes radical styles for women and men. They almost singlehandedly started the trend for yoga wear as everyday wear in and out of the gym.
Certainly upper management from the major athletic companies are sending spy drones in the stores to figure out their secret sauce. They are buying and dissecting garments and creating their own vanilla versions. This is a recipe without all the ingredients. They are missing the point; it is Lululemon’s originality that makes it special. It is getting to the finish line first. Who cares about second place?
The opportunity for growth for Lululemon is still very great, as they are still far from a household name. They could benefit from larger stores and certainly more men’s product. Girls would be a smash hit, too. If I was a Nordstrom or Bloomingdales’s buyer, I would be begging for a wholesale line.