The Vancouver-based maker of yoga clothes, mats and accessories this week pulled its black Luon stretch pants off its store shelves because the material used was too sheer, too…revealing. Its crop tops were also effected.
As USA Today recounted:
The company’s see-through black Luon pants is the latest in a series of quality glitches that threatens to alienate the retailer’s hardcore fan base, which has so far been more than willing to shell out $100 for pants and other athletic garments. These legions of followers have helped Lululemon, founded in 1998, become a billion-dollar business.
Lululemon insists that the problem with the Luon pants didn’t occur because it changed specifications for the clothing or switched suppliers. It warned that taking the pants off the shelves could lead to short supplies.
The Luon pants, made from a combination of nylon and Lycra fibers, are one of the retailer’s product staples and account for about 17% of all women’s pants in its stores. The company is offering customers’ full refunds or exchanges.
This is surely a very real problem, challenge and crisis for the company and its executives. A few people involved in design, specifications, production and procurement may be sending their resumes to Nike, Reebok and Under Armor. The company is known for healthy living and collaborative team-based management. Its retail store personnel are known as “educators.”
“The ingredients, weight and longevity qualities of the pants remain the same, but the coverage does not, resulting in a level of sheerness in some of our women’s black Luon bottoms that falls short of our very high standards,” the company said in a statement.
It’s a crisis, but it’s a blip of one. Lululemon is surely rushing to redesign and manufacture the pants with new material. As the profits story indicates, this will increase costs and may impact sales, especially if shortages persist. But in the end, Lululemon has such a loyal following and such a smart merchandising approach, it will bounce back.
The situation also borders on the old saw that any publicity is good publicity. Lululemon, despite its enthusiastic fan base, remains a relatively small player in a crowded market sector. Having Jimmy Kimmel make fun of you on national television isn’t the worst thing.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.
sn’t the worst thing.