Lululemon continues lucrative leaps with spin-off Ivivva Athletica in Chinook Centre
As Lululemon Athletica launches yet another store in Calgary, marketing experts suggest the expansion represents the Vancouver-based company’s carefully cultivated brand.
Just this past month, the company launched their second spin-off store, Ivivva Athletica, which caters to tween girls in dance and gymnastics.
The commercial success of the Canadian-based company coincides with founder Chip Wilson recently joining the Forbes billionaire list in March 2011. A financial profile on the Forbes website shows the clothing line went up 170 per cent in stocks this past year.
Financial information available on the Lululemon website shows second quarter sales were up 39 per cent from this time last year. As it stands, the company reaps revenues of $700 million annually with 140 stores operating worldwide.
Selling an enjoyable experience
University of Calgary marketing professor, Debi Andrus, said the Lululemon Athletica brand is really connected to how they want people to perceive the product and how they feel when they are wearing the clothing.
“When people put it on they feel good about wearing it,” Andrus said.
“Lululemon identifies a group of people who want to experience a certain lifestyle. Through yoga, health and a feel good philosophy, the company is building an experience for people to enjoy,” she added.
Andrus said the success is reflected in everything within the store experience. The people who work there believe strongly in the lifestyle and what it represents.
“People can buy other lines of clothing but Lululemon provides a whole group extension — that we are all part of Lululemon. That’s why they have such a strong following,” Andrus said.
Culture creation starts from within
Former Lululemon Athletica employee Samantha Baldwin said she shopped at Lululemon in the first place because of the stores’ positive messages and enjoyable experience she had every time she went there.
“I found the employees were happy and energetic all the time. It made it a feel-good experience.”
“It was everything from the quirky window displays to their noticeable goal-setting wall in the store.”
She said the dynamics inside the store were very welcoming, unpretentious; and ultimately it encouraged her enough to apply for a job there.
Living the Lululemon lifestyle
Baldwin said Lululemon Athletica is looking for individuals who can contribute to the company’s success while still pursuing their own dreams — that ideally the company is looking for entrepreneurs.
“Lululemon builds their culture by encouraging you to think of your own dreams.”
“If your employees are happy and feel supported in their goals, your genuine nature comes across and this allows consumers to buy the experience, buy the product,” she explained.
“If you can foster a place of entrepreneurship and give employees the freedom to pursue creative endeavours, it can only really benefit you as well. I think it’s brilliant.”
Baldwin said she was completely engaged with the company’s values, community spirit and affirmative messages.
“It wasn’t just about selling stretchy pants. It was about connecting with people on an authentic level and finding out their story.”
Connecting communities together
Baldwin said that within Lululemon there is an ambassador program, where Lululemon representatives go out into the community and attend yoga classes at different studios.
“Some employees will build a major rapport with the instructors and end up asking them to be a Lululemon ambassador for one year.”
Baldwin explained that it is similar to a wedding proposal. “It is quite funny — basically the Lululemon rep gets down on one knee and will ask the chosen instructor to be an ambassador.”
If the “proposal” is accepted, the ambassador has the opportunity to wear Lululemon products at a discounted rate, while endorsing them at the same time. Lululemon also puts pictures of their ambassadors in their store locations, which encourages people to take that particular ambassador’s yoga class.
“As a result, people who attend the yoga classes come back to buy Lululemon products.”
Baldwin said that the ambassador program is what connects the community of yoga to Lululemon – that essentially Lululemon has built their culture on the pre-existing culture of yoga.
“I don’t even know if there is a line between the two anymore, it is cyclical,” Baldwin added.
The intertwining of product and lifestyle promotion are not lost on even the youngest of potential customers.
Baldwin’s daughter, eight-year-old dancer Trinity Wiebe said, “I have been dancing since I was four and I love wearing my Lululemon stuff.
“My dance teacher also works there and she wears Lululemon all the time,” Wiebe added. “I almost always wear Lululemon to dance because it is comfortable and looks nice.”
“My daughter is a dancer so I purchase Ivivva products for her to dance in. I go to Ivivva because of the quality of the product,” Baldwin explained, adding that even after repeated washings the products last and do not fray.
Baldwin said she has “worn Lululemon from the beginning.”
“The Ivivva line fits my daughter well and I’ve tested the Lululemon material at boot camps and in hot yoga. It does incredibly well with moisture. In fact everything it says it does, it does.”