The athletic apparel company Lululemon launched its second store in Germany on end of October, 2017 after building a network with showrooms since 2013. Founded in Vancouver, Canada in 1998, Lululemon still feeds not only the community of yoga-crazed but also running, cycling and training sections. We talked to Lululemon's general manager EMEA Gareth Pope, about the expansion in Europe and how
the brand remains on the forefront of the market which includes Amazon and s.Oliver.
Your new store in Munich marks a further step in conquering Europe with the Lululemon brand. What’s crucial about this market, where do you see differences between the American and European customers?
International is one of our most significant opportunities and drivers of growth, we expect the business outside of North America to contribute $1bn in sales by 2020. While North America has been leading the active, mindful lifestyle for almost two decades, what’s fascinating is the acceleration of this way of living across the globe. We are finding that consumers are increasingly intentional with what they choose to buy, being drawn to brands and products that offer profound impact on how they feel and perform throughout all aspects of their life.
Why did you choose Munich as the location for your new store? What have you found out about the German customer via your first store in Hamburg so far?
We are proud to have been building a community in Munich since September 2013, when we launched our first showroom, and to now be opening a new store in the city. Our unique showroom approach enables us to enter new regions by building community momentum, giving us a better understanding of local needs which in turn informs our store strategy.
We have seen that our local guest in Munich is increasingly living an active life. Both in terms of their exercise patterns as well as how they live outside of the gym or yoga studio. We also find the Munich guest to understand product quality, with a willingness to pay for a premium product.
Do you have any further (retail) expansion plans on the European continent?
Yes. As our European collective continues to expand and thrive, and with sales up 50% in the second quarter year over year, we believe that there is a significant and exciting long-term opportunity for Lululemon across the region.
From Amazon to s.Oliver – it seems that each (fashion) brand and retailer is recently coming up with their own sports apparel line. What do you think about this and how do you fight against these lower price competitors?
Having operated in a competitive market for almost two decades, we know that our approach differentiates us. Lululemon was founded on a community-led brand model, best in class product innovation and human connection, brought to life by a light and highly-localized store footprint. We remain at the forefront of the market we created, being the company that defines an active, mindful lifestyle and designing products we know will solve our guests’ problems.
We believe that consumers in general are looking at value more than price alone. Our products are priced based on a commitment to the value of fit, functionality and premium materials. Through our stores and ambassadors, we create communities that share a sense of belonging and empowerment which transcends our products. For example, every week our stores turn their spaces into yoga studios, with complimentary classes led by local instructors and ambassadors.
What’s your bestselling product category? Are we still in a leggings heyday – and is there any category that could replace them?
Our Boogie Pant – recently celebrated by the New York Museum of Modern Art in their exhibition of iconic clothing – was where it all began for us in 1998, and yoga pants or leggings continue to be a core part of our business. Under our design principle Engineered Sensation we defined the science of “feel”, which is our primary lens when creating all of our product, led by neuromechanics scientists in our WhiteSpace lab. This has created some truly category-defining innovation, with recent examples including our newest technical performance fabric Everlux, the Align pant and Enlite bra for women, and ABC pant for men. Our men’s business offers an incredible opportunity – as more men discover our brand and product, we see the potential for this to contribute $1bn in annual sales in the next few years.
What are the dominating Lululemon-trends for s/s 2018?
Our in-house R&D team WhiteSpace – which includes former NASA scientists, anthropologists and psychologists – are continually looking to the future, developing products that our guests didn’t know they needed. Our guests will continue to see new innovations in Engineered Sensation to support performance potential during their pursuits, as well as “To & From” products created to carry them to and from work, home or the studio.