We should all send condolences in the form of deep yoga breaths to those dealing with Lululemon's social media platforms, because they're at the mercy of a company making one bad decision after the next.
In the past couple weeks, Lululemon has been trying to quash their latest PR snafu that involves confusion over whether the resale of their goods by individual customers is "allowed." The company has a notably strict return policy and they recently changed their resale policy to clarify the following:
what is your reselling policy?
we completely recognize that once someone purchases our product they can do what they want with it. We do not, however, support those who acquire large volumes of our product to resell at an elevated price point.
How would Lululemon even know who was reselling their products? Well, according to multiple news outlets, Lululemon has tracked down customers selling their goods on eBay and then subsequently banned them from purchasing anything on the Lululemon website. The customers would receive a phone call telling them that they'd been found reselling products and that their IP address had been blocked. It all sounds so...NSA, but for stretchy pants.
Originally, a company representative told Business Insider that the policy was good for everyone: "Bottom line, if it doesn't come from us, we can't educate, we don't know the history of the garment, and we can't guarantee its' authenticity." But since then, they've backtracked. On Sunday, the company sent a statement to CTV which read:
We looked into it and realized that we had indeed gone too far, and have taken steps to fix it as quickly as possible. Our approach is simply intended to limit major reselling which results in assortments not being available to all of our guests. We are reaching out to apologize to the guests who were impacted.
It doesn't seem like this quick fix is working though. Lululemon's Facebook page is still full of comments from angry customers, which will make you slightly sympathetic for the Emily, Siya, Jamieson, Katelin etc. who run the page. There are also numerous complaints about quality control issues, which haven't been quelled since the controversy over their see-through pants, as well as references to company founder Chip Wilson's comments about fat legs making his pants pill.
Though some analysts believe that Lululemon's appointment of a new CEO (and the a slight increase in their stock prices since) indicates that the company will bounce back, in order to do that, it's going to have to become a different company. Lululemon developed its cult following by being personable to its customers and obsessive about its product. It managed to create a lifestyle brand out of a clothing company. In that process, their attention to detail repeatedly put them in contact with their customers, which resulted in them making stupid decisions and saying stupid things under the guise that their customers were so loyal they'd understand.
But Lululemon is too big now to be understood for those mistakes that would once have been forgiven by longtime customers. When you become a big company, you have to leave some of that person-to-person contact behind. The product has to be consistent (which Lululemon's hasn't been) and the personality of the company lessens. Though longtime customers might feel less connected to the brand if Lululemon shuts up a little, the company will actually be able to gain the new buyers they need in order to grow by avoiding the inevitable bad press that crops up from being so open and vocal.
This awkward transition state between expensive niche brand and global company is where Lululemon sits now (if it isn't doomed entirely). The woman who wrote on Lululemon's Facebook page that their "Customer service is embarrassing for a Canadian store!" knows Lululemon as the brand they're pretending to be. Others, like the "faithful customer and current stockholder" who wrote to complain that she'd "happily" sell her shares in the company "but it's tanked so badly that I now have to ride it out" knows that Lululemon is evolving to become a global brand. Global brands make a lot of money but rarely do they keep track of loyal customers, check to see if they are reselling their goods and then ban them from purchasing their clothing. They've got enough going on not to care.
Image via Lululemon Athletica/Facebook