Nearly three months after Lululemon suffered a crushing quality control issue effecting its popular black Luon yoga pants, in turn causing a social media firestorm over the brand’s handling of the recall, new and improved (read: not sheer) pants are making their way onto store shelves.
The company plans to restock stores through June with its Astro and Groove yoga pants, while its Wunder Unders appeared for sale on the website this week.
Back in March, the cult-like Canadian retailer pulled 17 percent of its yoga pants made of Luon, a proprietary Lycra-based fabric, as customer complaints rolled in claiming the pants were sheer—like completely see through, embarrassing sheer. That was quite a problem for a company that touts the benefits of yoga and its many body-bending positions. In an ill-advised move, the brand only posted one, vague blog post about the issue and recall, failing to identify the styles effected or provide any specific information for concerned customers.[more]
As it would, complaints went viral on social media, with hundreds of devout customers documenting their gripes with their purchases on Facebook for all to see. Some recounted a dwindling satisfaction with the brand’s products, while others told horror stories about their bids to return their sheer purchases. “I went into my local store to return my Astro pants and Invert crops, both purchased this month. I was asked to BEND OVER in order to determine sheerness. The sales associate then perused my butt in the dim lighting of the change room and deemed them “not sheer”,” wrote one customer, according to Jezebel. “I felt degraded that this is how the recall is being handled. I called the GEC to confirm this is their protocol, and they verified that yes, the “educators” will verify sheerness by asking the customer to bend over.”
The brand was increasingly criticized for its handling of the recall, as it simply directed customers to its “GEC” or “Guest Education Center” to speak with “Educators”—a lexicon unique to the overtly eccentric but wildly popular brand founded by Chip Wilson in Vancouver.
Initially, the brand pointed a finger at its Taiwanese manufacturer, Eclat Textile Co., but later accepted some responsibility for the mishap, saying that the pants did meet their standards, but at the low end. After a detailed earnings call with investors shined some light on Lulu’s plan to tackle the issue, it posted an apology letter to its customers on Facebook, as well as a detailed plan of action, and eventually ousted its Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson, which the company called a “reorganization of our product organization.”
Following through on that improvement plan, Lululemon said it now puts its pants through 15 different quality tests, including “for pilling, shrinkage, colorfastness and modulus—the force with which the fabric wants to snap back after it has been stretched,” according to the Wall Street Journal. In a blog post, the brand highlighted key changes in design, such as an improved pattern for the pants and the development of a “sheer-o-meter” that determines how much light shines through a fabric when stretched. All of that, the brand asserts, means “there’s now more fabric across the bum so it’s not stretched from the get-go.”
Conquering not one but two problems, the brand has also promised to address customer concerns and questions in a much more personal manner with the help of its lead product educator. “Getting your feedback on what you love (and don’t love) helps us design and innovate for you…We’re kicking it up a notch with personal responses to anything that’s on your mind,” the brand wrote in a blog post. “All you have to do is ask on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or here on the blog, and I’ll get you answers face to face.”
As for now, it seems like the brand has bounced back in more ways than one. While shares took a tumble soon after the March announcement, stocks are up nearly 16 percent since March 15, closing at an all-time high earlier this week. And most importantly, it looks like Lulu has learned an important lesson in transparency—an integral piece in a brand puzzle that relies so heavily on its devout customers and the lifestyle choices they make.
Will you be shopping at Lululemon again? Let us know in the comments.