Lululemon Athletica, retailer of yoga inspired athletic apparel, has the market cornered on yoga wear and yoga gear in one of the most unusual ways to date in retail marketing history. In fact, it could be said, they are blazing a new trail where word of mouth reigns supreme and their clothing line is being sold, literally, in the trenches by yoga teachers, community events and via social networking sites like twitter and facebook where Lululemon advocates can get on the Lululemon love train.
The company utilizes what they call “ambassadors,” local fitness stars who model the Lulu athletic wear in their regular yoga/pilates/fitness classes and who lead free community classes in the Lululemon stores. They also organize events, like dances and running clubs for the community and each community has its own Lululemon facebook page where local Lulu lovers can interact with the store and stay abreast of events and in-store happenings.
According to Oregon Business, a monthly publication based in Portland, Oregon, “Lululemon’s strategy is to analyze a community by using a showroom where employees interact with consumers through fitness classes and events. Once the employees understand what consumers in the area want, and think they have a strong customer base, the company moves from a showroom to open a storefront.”
It’s marketing genius that is translating into strong sales. With a focus on the growing $15 billion market for women’s fitness attire, Lululemon’s 2009 revenue grew by 28% over the prior year. The company’s gross revenue for 2009 capped out around $453 million.
Lululemon customers are not just your average retail customers, they are loyal fans who are vocal advocates of the Lulu brand. Ask any Lululemon shopper and they are likely to espouse the benefits of the clothing as being superior to any other. But it’s not just about the clothing, says Charlie Finnbogason, managing partner of Franklin Retail Advisors, a Winnipeg-based consulting firm. It’s selling a way of life. “A lot of what they (Lululemon) talk about is keeping healthy, exercising and drinking eight glasses of water a day. They’re looking at you to not only buy their products but to embrace the lifestyle they promote,” he says.
“At the core, we’re yoga both literally and figuratively. Yoga is so good for you,” says Eric Petersen, lululemon’s marketing director. “We feel it’s a gift of health. If we can educate a customer on the benefits of yoga, we’ve made them a better person and the world a better place.”
What has your shopping experience been with Lululemon?