Lululemon cracks jokes, plans men’s stores amid controversy

Lululemon laughs off the controversy, plans to launch men's stores.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The gale force of controversy that’s battered Lululemon Athletica Inc. in recent months would have left most executives curled up in a ball, bedridden and buried under a mound of crumpled tissues.
Instead, the company’s leadership team, which had to recall its too-sheer black yoga pants in March and has been suffering ever since, appears to be in stitches.

On Monday, Chief Executive Christine Day said she would step down from her post once a replacement was found. The announcement came two months after Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson was removed.

On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported that four days before Day’s announcement, Lululemon Chairman Dennis “Chip” Wilson sold $50 million worth of company stock. The stock has since sunk nearly 19% in the ensuing days.


But the company is making a point of keeping its chin up.

“We like to have a sense of humor,” Day said Thursday at the William Blair Growth Stock Conference in Chicago.

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Case in point: the “CEO Wanted Apply Within” signs in some Lululemon stores and on its Facebook profile. Some locations offered free hugs with purchases on Thursday, Day said.

“The business and the morale and what we are doing inside does not feel, honestly, like it feels to you right now,” she said to the assembled investors and analysts.

Still, the company is pushing hard to move past the hullabaloo over its thin luon pants, which are returning to shelves this week after being re-engineered to offer “more fabric across the bum” – Lululemon’s words.

At Thursday’s conference, Day also said the company is looking to open stand-alone men’s stores starting in 2016. For now, though, a collection of clothing for dudes – including the $88 Vital shorts and the $98 Precision polo – is doing well.

“It’s been overachieving its plan and men’s penetration is growing,” Day said.


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