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Lululemon: What A Difference A Year Makes

Lululemon opened their experiential flagship location in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago about a year ago.  A temple of sorts, the store was built to facilitate engagement between customer and brand with ample space dedicated to fostering shared experiences such as a meditation room, multiple fitness rooms, and a café (read more about our take on the Lincoln Park store in Retail Innovations and on our blog).

In what has been a rocky few months for retail, Lululemon has been one of the few that has taken the pandemic in stride, swiftly transitioning shuttered stores to ad-hoc fulfillment centers to support e-commerce operations and offering a menu of online classes such as dance, pilates, yoga, train and meditation. While not a replacement for the high level of customer engagement that takes place in stores, these stop-gaps certainly seem to be working; CEO Calvin McDonald reported that 170,000 customers tuned into these digital events during the first week of closures alone and Q1 earnings, reported this week, indicate a 70% jump in online sales.

With most locations now reopened, we were curious to see how the in-store experience had shifted to accommodate the new realities of retail.

What’s Changed?

Perhaps the biggest and most noticeable difference is capacity limits. What was once a beating heart, 20,000 square feet in size, is now carefully kept at an average volume of 20 customers at a time. Even during non-peak hours, the line of shoppers waiting to enter snakes outside of the building and a Lululemon associate sits diligently by a table full of hand sanitizer, allowing one person in as one person comes out.

With so few people allowed inside it is not difficult to keep your distance. Nevertheless, reminders are placed throughout store to keep 6 apart.

Another change is the new uniform of shoppers and staff alike; masks are required to be worn at all times by everyone inside the store.

Sadly, many of the amenities that made this location unique remain closed. The meditation room’s windows are dark as are the fitness studios. Though the café remains open, the co-working space has been removed and replaced by a table full of hand sanitizer and masks.

Anti-viral gear in the former co-working space.

What’s Stayed the Same?

Despite all these changes, the experience still feels distinctly Lululemon. Thoughtful details, such as a QR code taped to a street-facing window where guests can pull up the café menu while they wait, dedicated hours for high-risk shoppers and a 25% in-store discount for healthcare workers, make it clear that the brand is continuing to put wellness first. In addition, the space manages to foster a sense of community by continuing to showcase the talents of their local brand ambassadors such as Kofi Hughes, whose artwork graces the first floor in a pop-up exhibit.

Artwork by Lululemon Ambassador Kofi Hughes.

And finally, the store associates continue to rise to the challenges posed by this new retail environment and exceed customer expectations in a way that is authentically Lululemon.

Alyson Fischer

Alyson Fischer

afischer@mdretail.com

Alyson leads client projects from planning to completion and provides cross-functional support for the partners in the execution of business analysis, engagement management and strategic planning. Since joining the team in 2016, she has advised clients in North America, Europe, Asia, and Central America on both qualitative and quantitative techniques. Additional areas of expertise include merchandise planning, assortment strategy, inventory management, productivity analysis, competitive benchmarking, forecasting and data visualization.

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