Namaste, Lululemon

Namaste, Lululemon

Athletic apparel business Lululemon Athletica, which has just set up shop in Singapore, may soon be able to put its see-through yoga pants fiasco behind it.

With its first boutique in Asia that opened at B1-11 Ion Orchard last month and better-thanexpected third-quarter 2014 profits, things are starting to look up for the Canadian brand.

Founded in 1998 by Chip Wilson, it scored legions of fans with its popular stretchy, sweat-wicking tights, but it was the same product that served a huge retail blow to the brand in 2013.

Some of its pants were so sheer they were see through, which led to a product recall that cost the brand about US$60 million (S$79 million) in sales.

Ms Delaney Schweitzer, executive vice-president of retail operations, who was in town for the store opening, says: "Rebuilding was about going deep into the supply chain and really understanding quality so that we could find out areas for improvement."

To boost sales, the brand also expanded its offerings by adding trendy pieces that can be worn outside the yoga studio.

For instance, an extra-long strappy sports bra with mesh panels that could be paired with leather pants for a sports luxe look, turned out to be a best-seller, with many sizes sold out within the first few days of the store opening here.

The 3,700-sq-ft space is also filled with gear in cheery colours and prints befitting its feminine name.

Prices start from $22 for accessories and $72 for apparel.

But the brand is also hoping to become a bigger player in the menswear market.

The Ion Orchard store carries a wider selection of menswear compared with its other outlets overseas and it opened its first menswear store in New York City in November last year.

Menswear currently accounts for about 20 per cent of its business.

One of the highlights from its menswear offerings is the Silverescent technology that inhibits the growth of odour-causing bacteria.

Ms Schweitzer notes that anecdotally, there is an increasing number of men taking up yoga.

"We've played so small in menswear that we kept selling out, so it just makes sense to expand," she says.

FREE YOGA CLASSES

Plans are under way for a second Singapore store within the first half of this year.

Ms Schweitzer, who joined the brand in 2002 and worked her way up, is confident about its prospects here despite the competitive sportswear landscape.

American brand Under Armour, which is competing for a share of the yogawear market, opened three stand-alone stores in Singapore last year.

Swedish fast fashion giant H&M opened a store last year in Kallang Wave Mall, where it offers the biggest selection of the H&M Sport collection.

Sportswear giant Nike has also been introducing more fashion-conscious apparel.

Prior to opening its flagship, Lululemon operated two showrooms in Club Street and Joo Chiat Road, which were well received.

Mr Ken Lee, general manager of Lululemon in Asia, says: "Initially, not many people showed up, but then the word spread and there was just a tremendous demand."

More than just to sell products, he adds that the showroom was a way "to connect with yoga enthusiasts in an authentic way", through complimentary classes and other activities.

Leading up to the opening, the brand organised an outdoor yoga session along Orchard Road, which was attended by more than 900 people.

It will continue to offer free classes in the Ion Orchard store.

Says Ms Schweitzer: "We just want to share what living a good life is about - living through yoga and sweat, while wearing clothes that make you feel beautiful and can help you move through your day."


This article was first published on January 2, 2015.
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