Lululemon was founded in Vancouver 15 years ago, but it has a freshness issue on it's home turf. The city is a living example of an active population, but the customer no longer perceives Lululemon's offering to be unique. To reinvigorate the city's love affair with the brand, in 2009 The Lululemon Lab opened its doors in a beautiful warehouse space, complete with 3 designers, 30 production staff, and 10 in customer sales.
THE LAB SPACE
The space would attract those customers who are, or were previously, brand loyal. And because they are shopping at a lab, they would also be looking for something fresh and new, making them innovators or early adopters. In theory this should be the customer, and the advantage of opening such a location.
With a design and production team present, The Lab could be putting inventive apparel and accessories on-floor weekly, testing new colour palettes, patterns, silhouettes, and fabrics with early adopters. Identifying what these customers are interested in allows retailers to maintain market dominance, brand awareness, and grow their sales and profit through each product life cycle.
IT's REALLY JUST A NEIGHBOURHOOD SPACE
But, walking into The Lululemon Lab store, you can't help but feel like they've missed the opportunity. The colours are neutral - blacks, greys, muted burgundy. The fabrics are often for day-use and uninteresting: linens, cottons, etc. The staff is focused on lifestyle events held in the space, most are unrelated to an active lifestyle, such as gin tasting, candle-making, and onesie painting.
While The Lululemon Lab is doing a great job at becoming a neighbourhood destination, they are doing little to help this global retailer's future product development and sales. "Once a month, ideas born in the Lab are presented to Lululemon's main design team". If The Lab's designers have any relevance to future sales, shouldn't this be a constant dialogue? Has the company considered putting its best, most intuitive designer in The Lab? Located in the Pacific Northwest he/she would have unlimited access to their core customer, and the perfect venue to test their best and newest ideas.
Lululemon does continue to do some fantastically innovative things, most recently the founders partnered with a local college to ensure Vancouver becomes a technical design and production education leader. It is too bad The Lab isn't tapping into the bigger product opportunity.
We are big proponents of retailers testing product and allocating small portions of their assortment for innovative product. To learn more about product management, assortment planning, and the business behind this strategy, subscribe to our online courses and workshops.
Stay in touch via The Weekly, our newsletter which is perfect for retailers, reps, and buyers.