Retail in Asia


Lululemon’s Gareth Pope bullish on Asia Pacific as brand readies entry into four new markets

Activewear is projected to account for more than 57 percent of Asia-Pacific’s total sportswear market size, and its retail value is expected to remain buoyant through 2027.

Among the biggest players in the industry is Lululemon, the Canadian label which first entered Asia in 2014 with a concept store in Singapore, followed in quick succession by outposts in Hong Kong and Mainland China. This July, Lululemon will open its first store in Bangkok at Central World mall. 

SEE ALSO: Why athleisure’s pulse is racing in Southeast Asia

The brand earlier this month announced its first-quarter earnings for 2023, which increased 24 percent to USD2 billion. As net revenue increased 17 percent in North America, its international revenue skyrocketed 60 percent, representing the brand’s success in its global expansion strategy. 

Retail in Asia speaks with Gareth Pope, senior vice president for Asia Pacific at Lululemon Athletica, on the brand’s plans in Asia. 

RiA: Can you share priorities for Lululemon’s retail strategy in Asia for 2023?

Pope: Globally, we announced our new Power of Three ×2 growth strategy which included a plan to double our 2021 men’s and digital revenues, and to quadruple international revenues by 2026.

Asia Pacific continues to be a strategic growth driver for lululemon, as we continue to expand our store presence across the region. In this region, our Power of 3 x2 growth strategy includes doubling down on what has fuelled our success to date, focusing on our three growth pillars: product innovation, guest experiences, and market expansion.

RiA: Tell us more about these growth opportunities. 
Source: Lululemon Athletica

Pope: On product innovation, our products offer new and unique solves for our  guests and are one of our most meaningful competitive advantages.  We have exciting launches this year in both our core “sweat” categories of run, train & yoga, and “OTM” or On the Move lifestyle product.

We will continue to create world-class experiences by harnessing the power of our guest relationships to build stronger connections across both physical and digital, cultivate its community, and inspire through innovation. Look out for a number of wellbeing events held in October in support of World Mental Health Day.

We have a significant runway in both new and core markets and remain focused on ensuring local relevance and deepening connections as we continue to introduce the brand to more communities around the world and region.  This year we are thrilled to be opening our first store in Bangkok, Thailand in late July.

As we look ahead, our strategy remains focused on continuing to deliver on our Power of Three x2 growth plan and successfully navigating the dynamic macro environment. 

RiA: Do you plan to expand your physical retail footprint in Asia-Pacific?

Pope: In the coming five years we plan to almost double our existing store count and enter four new markets, starting with Thailand later this year.

Our business model prioritises guest connection. Our stores are community hubs, designed to transform the traditional retail experience by offering tools, resources and events such as in-store classes and training programs with local instructors, helping guests to achieve their goals.

We empower our stores and educators to find the right format for their guests and local communities. This is where we create a relationship with our guests and understand their passions, including how they like to sweat.  This is how we remain locally relevant, while growing our global impact. 

A Lululemon store in Shanghai. Source: Shutterstock
RiA: What about Lululemon’s plans for e-commerce?

Pope: Our direct-to-consumer model enables us to make the strategic shifts necessary to meet the ever-evolving needs of our guests. We continue to see strength in traffic across both channels, demonstrating the strength of our omni operating model as we engage with our guests in ways most convenient to them.

Similar to our physical store expansion, we have a roadmap of digital and omni enhancements to enable us to better serve guests in each market in which we operate – always with the goal of making it easy and inspiring for our guests to interact with us.

To expand our reach and build deeper and meaningful connections with new audiences in Southeast Asia, we partnered with Lazada in January 2023. This partnership marks a new step in our Power of Three x2 growth strategy in Asia. Not only does it provide new ways, such as interactive livestreaming on the platform, to engage with audiences, it also allows us to serve more consumers across Southeast Asia with direct access to Lululemon’s product innovations, helping our brand to further drive its digital expansion. 

RiA: Are you optimistic about the growth of activewear in Asia? 

Pope: We are very optimistic about the sports apparel industry development. The global activewear market size is expected to reach USD451 billion by 2028. The rise in the popularity of contemporary apparel in the gym and for everyday activities is propelling the industry forward. 

Health is more important to people now than ever before – with mental wellbeing also on the rise. We are an advocate for holistic wellbeing across physical, mental and social dimensions.  

RiA: On the product innovation front, can you tell us about the Align collection? What else can we look forward to from Lululemon in the coming months? 

Pope: We believe when guests feel their best, they perform their best. The Science of Feel is our distinctive lens for product innovation – a human-first approach to understand the physical and emotional sensation that drive personal performance and wellbeing; in addition to this feel state, we focus on creating product functionality that solve for the unmet needs of our guests.

At the Tokyo Run Experience, part of Lululemon’s ‘Together in Stride’ campaign in June. Source: Lululemon Athletica

Our Align franchise remains a fan-favourite for its weightless, buttery-soft feel and flattering fit. Align was first designed as a single item from guest insights that yogis shared—they wanted to feel light and free while they practiced,with zero distractions. With this in mind, we developed our revolutionary Nulu™ fabric to create a new, unmatched feeling for guests: soft, sweat wicking, breathable, weightless and four-way stretch.  

Our recent Get Into It campaign, featuring our Align franchise, celebrates how our product was designed with movement, comfort and flexibility in mind to support infinite expressions of wellbeing. The campaign represents how wellbeing has evolved – we know when we’re free to stretch our limits and move the way we’re meant to, we unlock our truest and most confident selves.  

SEE ALSO: WGSN report: Discover key movements influencing the consumers of 2025

Lululemon recently announced the latest ‘Together in Stride’ campaign with the launch of our new Road to Trail collection in Q2 as we see running as a movement that elevates the holistic wellbeing of all. The new collection was showcased at the Tokyo Run Experience on June 3, 2023, where lovers of running connected to embrace the joy of moving. 

The ‘Together in Stride’ campaign celebrates togetherness in motion and champions the sense of community and spirit of progress that is created when everyone collectively makes progress in their journey for better wellbeing.