In an effort to distance itself from a year full of missteps, Lululemon Athletica Inc. has named a new CEO. Company founder Chip Wilson will step down as chairman of the yoga wear company and Laurent Potdevin will be taking his place.
Potdevin was most recently the president of TOMS Shoes. He took a leading role in the global expansion of that company, expertise Lululemon is excited to bring on board. They hoped to expand worldwide this year, but news of expansion was trumped by news of controversy.
Troubles started for Lululemon in March with a recall of one of their staple products. The stretchy black yoga pants favored by many who participate in the practice were found to be too sheer to wear. Lululemon became the punch line of many jokes, including a viral video demonstrating what other materials (like shaving cream) may cover better than the see-through yoga pants.
The multimillion-dollar recall was just the tip of the iceberg for the company. With a product that makes up nearly 20 percent of Lululemon’s sales off the shelves, the company stock prices plummeted.
Facing a financial crisis, it appeared the company had nowhere to go but up. However, that wasn’t the case as the next misstep in the sad saga of Wilson-run Lululemon was to mock a domestic abuse charity in Dallas.
Wilson himself has proved to be a bit of a PR nightmare. During a profile for the National Post Business magazine, he said he chose the name “Lululemon” for his company because the L sound is not in the Japanese language and “it’s funny to watch them try to say it.”
Believe it or not, that wasn’t even the biggest problem the company has faced. No, the final nail in the coffin for CEO Wilson was likely his statements regarding the use of his company’s products by plus-sized women. When asked to reflect on the recall fiasco, he shared, “Frankly, some women’s bodies just don’t actually work for it.”
His wife and Lululemon co-founder Shannon Wilson tried to spin this statement by blaming the see through pants on women wearing them outside of yoga class. If you believed them then, you didn’t when you saw a post on their Facebook page this summer blatantly stating their clothing is not meant for plus-sized women and they don’t really intend to change that.
We can hope by having Wilson step down and take a smaller role in the company, Lululemon can find its way back to the foundations of yoga. Focus less on being trendy and more on the cleansing aspects of the practice. Perhaps new CEO Potdevin can cleanse his company of all the nastiness it absorbed over the year, and start the New Year with a re-focused Lululemon.
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December 11th, 2013