Lululemon Tries New Store Concepts in Effort to Woo Shoppers

After Merchandise and Pricing Missteps, Brand Unveils Community Space, Concierge Services

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Lululemon wants shoppers to hang out in its new flagship.
Lululemon wants shoppers to hang out in its new flagship. Credit: Lululemon

Lululemon Athletica is saying, "namaste" with a new in-store initiative, inviting consumers to linger as well as shop. The Vancouver-based seller of yoga apparel will open its largest flagship to date in Manhattan's Flatiron District neighborhood on Wednesday. Roughly one-third of the 11,500-square-foot shop will be dedicated to a new concept called Hub Seventeen, a community gathering place where shoppers can take yoga workshops, view art or films and attend concerts. The store will also boast a concierge service to help shoppers book nearby gym classes or other city events.

According to Carolyn Manning, U.S. director of brand and community at Lululemon, the new features are another example of the brand's grassroots approach to marketing to consumers. "Our local teams seek out and partner with leaders in the community … to create experiences that excite and inspire our guests," she said.

While Hub Seventeen is unique to the Flatiron store, a spokeswoman noted that the concierge service is in the testing phase and could be rolled out to other locations.

Such offerings are another strategy for the 17-year-old brand, which was once the go-to source for yogawear, but has since struggled to connect with consumers after merchandise missteps. It's also dealing with the rise of competitors such as Gap Inc.'s Athleta and smaller niche labels. Though Lululemon reported a 16% rise in revenue to $453 million for the second quarter ended Aug. 2, along with a same-store sales increase of 6%, investors haven't reacted favorably. The company's stock price had a 52-week low of $43.99 in early November, down 37% from an April high.

Lululemon, which operates roughly 340 stores, also has a very vocal shopper base. Earlier this fall, the brand provoked ire when it raised the prices of its cropped yoga pants from $72 to $88. Many took to social media to voice their complaints.

In October, Lululemon promoted Lee Holman to the newly-created position of creative director in an effort to unify the men's and women's brand under a singular identity.

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