lululemon is a technical athletic gear brand originally from Canada, strong of an international identity framed by its global branding and its cool social community of yoga lovers.
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The brand has seen a rapid worldwide growth in 2017, surfing on the global wellbeing and athleisure wave. Its brand value is 3.57 bn USD and its revenue worldwide reaches 2.34 bn USD (Source: Statista).
After only 5 years in Asia Pacific, the brand counts a total of 66 stores: 31 of which in Australia, 12 in China, 6 in New Zealand, 4 in Japan, 3 in Hong Kong, and 2 in Malaysia as well as in Taiwan, Singapore and Korea.
lululemon stores, which are usually quite large for Asian standards, are characterized by clear lines and simple design, which make the items standing out and appealing to Asian customers.
Each store is not only a selling point but it is conceived as the place where the brand and community meet to promote a yoga approach to life.
The brand has made of its commitment to healthy lifestyle its major marketing strategy, which is based on the brand mission of embracing social, environmental, and economic health in every part throughout its activities.
Every week, the stores and showrooms push their products aside, unroll yoga mats and turn their spaces into instant yoga studios. Classes are complimentary and lead by instructors from local studios.
This lifestyle approach has made lululemon a desirable and creative tenant for shopping malls using lulemon’s activities to create freshness in their retail floor and redefine customers’ experience.
What to expect next? lululemon revealed it expects sales around US$ 4 billion by 2020 (double of US$ 2.3 billion in 2016). Out of these targeted sales for 2020, a strong focus will be put on menswear, which is expected to generated billions of dollars in Asia within the next few years.
Retail in Asia had ranked lululemon among the 10 Best Performing Brands in 2017 for “Best store experience and innovation”. To follow up on the brand development we have connected with Mr. Ken Lee, SVP of lululemon Asia, and we have asked him to share with our readers the pillars of this success.
RiA : What does lululemon stand for?
Ken : Our company mission is to elevate the world through the power of practice. We are passionate about empowering people to live a life of purpose—on and off the mat. Our singular purpose over the past 20 years is informed by our goal to inspire and enable people to design a life they love.
RiA : lululemon’s success relies on its community. How did you engage so many followers?
lululemon’s approach to community is rooted in building authentic relationships, with our guests (what we call customers) and our local ambassadors, who are inspirational leaders in yoga, run and all sorts of sweaty pursuits. Together we foster a united collective that informs how and where our brand shows up.
From our complimentary in-store sweat and mindfulness sessions to our large-scale events such as Unroll China, which in 2017 brought together 10,000 people in six cities to collectively practice yoga, we are focused on creating transformational experiences to inspire our collective to live their best lives.
SEE ALSO : Lululemon leader in experiential marketing
RiA : What’s the common denominator among them?
Ken : First and foremost, we know our guests lead busy, active lives. They are digitally savvy and have a finger on the pulse of what is going on in culture, music, art and style.
Here in China, our guests are some of the most progressive and digitally-engaged consumers in the world, and as such, we are focused on innovation and committed to developing new approaches deepening our connections with them.
Our Tmall store, which we opened in 2015, is a great example of this strategy – we have created an online to offline approach that seamlessly extends our physical store experience. The response from our guests has been exceptional, as demonstrated in the positive performance of the store, keen response to events and organic growth of brand awareness.
RiA : What are lululemon’s customers looking for?
Ken : People are becoming more intentional with what they choose to buy, they’re drawn to purpose-led brands and products that offer profound impact on how they feel and perform throughout all aspects of their life. As our guests lead full, 360-degree lives, they value the function of our technically beautiful clothing that helps them transition seamlessly to any activity throughout their day, from studio to street and back again.
In addition, and perhaps most importantly, we offer opportunities for real human connection, extending beyond technical athletic apparel to experiences that highlight yoga, sweat, community connection and personal development.
RiA : We have seen lululemon growing fast across different continents. What are the key components behind this rapid development and how did you manage it?
Ken : We are at the forefront of a behavioral shift towards communities seeking to pursue more active, mindful lifestyles. Since we opened our first store in Asia at ION Orchard Mall in Singapore in 2014, it’s been incredible to play a part in this growing movement in Asia.
The success of our go-to-market strategy lies in our unique community-led approach, we are pulled into cities instead of pushing growth. We achieve this by taking time to build vibrancy in the community, connect with the right studios and partner with ambassadors, and build and nurture authentic relationships with our guests.
It is a deliberate and disciplined approach, and we expect to continue to grow our international business (Asia, Europe and Australia) to 20-25% of our total revenues by 2020.
RiA : Marketing plays a major role in lululemon’s branding. We have seen stores turn into yoga studios, ice-yoga classes in Korea, yoga events at the Forbidden City in Beijing, what’s next?
Ken : Constant conversation with guests is a fundamental point of difference for our brand. We build authentic connections and create a feedback loop which enables us to continue to imagine innovative products – including and beyond apparel – that solve our guests’ problems.
In addition, our stores operate through a decentralized model, empowering teams at a local level to personalize their approach to individual communities, which is why you see such a wide variety of events and experiences from community to community, country to country and region to region.
RiA : As you are using the retail space for lifestyle events? How do you envision the future of the physical store?
Ken : Our stores are designed to be community hubs, founded on human connection and deep product knowledge. While we explore how to extend this experience online, we continue to develop new physical formats and guest experiences, informed of course by the local community.
Our co-located store formats, like our Robson Street store in Vancouver, offer separate men’s and women’s guest experiences and entrances. Our flagship stores are larger in size and have dedicated community spaces like the Sweat Alley in our Cheongdam flagship in Seoul and Hub Seventeen at our Flatiron store in New York City. Both stores also offer dedicated concierge services within their retail spaces to elevate our guests experience and understanding of our product and the community.
RiA : Any plans for brand extension through different product lines?
Ken : Innovation is in our DNA and our product line continues to evolve with our guests. We are excited to continue to share new designs and products for sweat and no-sweat activities, including run and training and explore new categories and partnerships with other best-in-the-world companies.
We recently announced a strategic partnership with 7mesh Industries Inc., an emerging global brand in high performance cycling apparel, to co-create and push the boundaries in advanced technical apparel.
RiA : What’s lululemon’s engagement in sustainability and the main topics discussed in terms of CSR?
Ken : We embrace social, environmental, and economic health in every part of our organization and throughout our global communities. We are working to be part of a world that operates within nature’s boundaries and provides for human needs — creating opportunities for people to lead happy and fulfilling lives.
Here to Be is our global social impact program, supporting our long-term vision to touch the lives of a billion people through the transformative powers of yoga and meditation.
In China, we are proud to partner with Taiji Zen, co-founded by Jet Li and Jack Ma, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “spread happiness and health through a balance of physical wellness and mental fitness” using the powers of Tai Chi. We are closely aligned in our belief in the healing powers of practice, and desire to increase access to these transformational tools in under-resourced communities, and looking forward to co-creating online and offline initiatives with them for Here to Be.
Retail in Asia will keep following lululemon development as a pioneering community brand. As Ken explained customers, or better “guests” in lululemon’s terms represent a huge resource as they are the first brand ambassadors. This community approach focuses on bringing together individuals with common interests and turning them into the brand power.