Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in Review - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Part 1

Part 1: The Ugly

1 - Chip Wilson steps down from management of the company in January of 2012. Is it a coincidence, then, that the fourth quarter offerings really go off the rails? Hardly any new items (particularly tank designs) for the yoga/general gym user, Scuba hoodie, a staple Christmas gift, design radically changed, no other french terry offerings like Cuddle Up pants, Lulu Pant IIs, no wraps. I don't think so.

Aftermath of a Flash Bra bleeding onto a white tank - boo!
2. Fabric Bleeding. The first half of the year was plagued with colors that bled or induced color transfer: Paris Pink, Flash, Deep Indigo, Ray. Lululemon got it together in the later half of the year, though, and there haven't been any problems in months.

Say No to Camel Toe? Not anymore.
3. Camel Toe City. In the course of putting together this blog I've looked at thousands of photos of lulu over the years and I have never noticed so much CT as I have this year. I think it's due to a few things - thinner fabrics, a changed gusset design, and a change in grooming habits.  I think the biggest culprit is thinner fabrics. Lululemon has cheapened out on the thickness of the luon they are using and people now have to do a "bend test" before they buy a pair of pants to make sure they don't flash their yoga class. Supposedly they have brought on a new expert to help them find their old recipe, I certainly hope so.

Awful construction on the Pow Pink Defines
4. Poor Construction becoming more common. I'm running across more and more cases of items unraveling on me. I'm glad I live near a store that can repair things but it's unfortunate it's happening. Some of my oldest lulu is holding up well but things made with the past couple of years tend to need repair more often. One reason I stopped buying, or rather, never started buying a lot of Lucy and Athleta was their poor construction but unfortunately lululemon seems to have lowered themselves to that level. I am spotting more quality stickers on items so I'm hoping that gets turned around, too.

4. Core Items Discontinued/Changed.   Quite a few core items have been discontinued or radically changed: Scoop Neck Tanks (discontinued to be a seasonal item), Power Y (changed from luon to luon light), Scuba Hoodie (changed to the lighter and shorter Scuba Stretch), Stride Jacket dropped (replaced by the lighter weight and more generic Daily Yoga, though not an awful replacement), Define Jacket dropped (replaced by the inferior Forme Jacket). The design of the Inspire crops was also tweaked with a tighter and shorter waistband and the Groove pant was also updated with a snugger knee and larger flare. The Groove and Daily Yoga jackets have been the best tolerated updates. However, the Daily Yoga is generic-looking and the fabric is very thin now. Lululemon claims the items were changed in response to customer "feedback" but it's very obvious the majority of the changes/updates were made to cheapen construction costs. That's a real shame because people will pay for quality.

5. Following Runway Trends Too Closely. Lululemon has always been a trendy athletic wear company but now they seem to follow runway trends too closely. Dropped crotch pants, color blocking, jailbird stripes, and high-waisted pants all went over like lead balloons. I think everyone likes a piece or two of the latest look - a Devotion color blocked tee, a Sea Stripe Cool Racerback or other tank, and the high-waisted Wunder Under pant - to update their lulu wardrobe but nearly every piece that has come out in the last few months has been striped or color blocked. You cannot coordinate that easily with older luluemon and it will look dated very fast. I'm sure it's a planned obsolescence in the company's eyes but consumers are not buying it. Some trendiness is fine but they have to offer timeless pieces in the latest colors, too.

I had an anonymous commenter sum it up best a few weeks ago:

Lulu has, however, always taken cue from "high" fashion trends — but typically, it waits for something to become coveted as a non-workout item before it makes its own version. Take the skinny cargo pant — it was almost a full year of J Brand madness over the skinny cargo before Lulu came out with its own version. This is a much smarter maneuver — Lulu's loyal clientele, from what I've observed on website reviews, this site, and reviews on the ecommerce site, is actually very conservative when it comes to trends. It likes to see a trend be "proven" before it commits. The craziness forced on from above — like harem pants! (I don't mind them, but Lulu shoppers have consistently shown that they can't stand them; anything harem ends up in WMTM) or these ridiculous stripes just don't work.
It's something that I continue to find perplexing. Not just because this year has seen the demise of *so* many popular styles — the Define, the Scuba, &c. And the abandoning of seasonal favs — Audrey jacket, Apr├Ęs ski jacket, & there weren't even Cuddle up pants this year! But it seems fundamentally to misunderstand the customer base. Lulu's customer base has shown that it REALLY likes these stand-by faves which are interspersed by the odd bit of already-proven trendiness. Wholesale adoption of runway trends is, in my opinion, going to prove as popular as the rest of this year of experimentation/alienation.

Coming Soon - Part II - The Bad - My picks for the worst lulu offered this year.


Anonymous said...

great post! i am also missing a lot of the standard lulu fare. where are my lulu pant 2? i have 2 and wear them all the time. i would buy every color if they came back. i miss the strides/in strides too. i have several and would love another in an updated color. it is a real shame that their classic items are missing this season or discontinued. they are just not listening to their core consumers and years-loyal fans- but maybe they don't care. very disappointing and many of us are taking our business elsewhere. i'm still somewhat hopeful their sales this quarter will somehow turn things around.

luluFemom said...

Sums up the year perfectly. Although I would've put the discontinued items number two on my list, you otherwise captured my feelings on the company this year, which is why I've spent the last couple of months investigating as many other athletic apparel brands as I can in search of an alternative. Here's hoping 2013 brings about some much needed change. Happy New Year, LLA! Your blog will be on the list of things I've been thankful to discover this year.

Anonymous said...

LLL needs to read this post and take every point to heart, because they're all valid customer concerns that have completely stopped me from buying anything besides CRBs and swiftly's. if they could fit the luon and the gusset i might buy more WU, but for all other pieces the changes and replacement designs lack that "je ne sais quoi" feeling!

Cindy said...

i really hope lulu reads your blog...i'm sure they do! i'm glad it's not only me who feels this way...i'm a diehard fan, but in the last year, i've been turned off the styles...too weird, too odd, weird proportions! and i agree with you, lulu wearers watch trends but aren't slave to them, and i think they like the classics with small tweaks that 'zhuush' them up or different colours. i've been taking really good care of all my older lulu because i don't want to replace it with the newer, thinner stuff and the styles are not appealing to me!

lildebbie said...

Great thoughts. I never thought my grooming habits down there could be part of why I suddenly experienced CT in my Wunder Unders that I restock for myself every year. Maybe I will reconsider being so close-shaven and rock a fluffy hairdo down there and I could wear them again. Thanks LLA for the valuable insight!!

LuluAddict said...

@ lildebbie - I'm sure thin material has a lot more to do with it but maybe adding a landing stripe might give you some camouflage. ;-)

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is that Lulu places the blame for the changes on the buyers, that they are responding to customers preferences. Yeah right!!! The discontinued/replaced core items had the highest ratings on their e-commerce site. The old Groove pants had almost 5 stars while the new ones barely have 3. Why touch near perfect items?

Anonymous said...

It's all very unflattering clothing and always was. Been in there 3 times and never bought anything. Their pants are horrendous and nobody looks good in them-even women in great shape. The shirts are all sheer and see through. What use is that? It's all just ugly and not stylish at all. I feel embarrassed for anyone in a full Lululemon outfit. Just gross.