When life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade—not squirt the juice in your eyes.
But Lululemon’s latest move in its NorthPark Center, Dallas store makes one wonder if the cult-like, eccentric yoga lifestyle brand subscribes to the age-old adage, "there is no such thing as bad publicity."
Mall-goers noticed that the store adorned their front display window with a less-than-clever statement: "We do partners yoga, not partners card," referring to the annual, flagship fundraiser for The Family Place, a well-respected Dallas charity that gives support to battered women and children. A Partners Card can be purchased for $70—all of which is donated to the charity—and entitles users to a 20 percent discount at 750 partcipating area retailers through October and November—a list that does not include Lululemon.
Customers sounded off about the nonsensical promo on Facebook, with one saying, "I respect the business decision not to participate in the Partners card program but to belittle it was inexcusable." And after some started calling for a local boycott, the brand responded:
“The intention behind the window decal was to share our love for yoga, not to offend our community. Although we choose not to participate in Partner's Card, we choose to give back in a different way. We are working in collaboration with Family Place to offer the gift of yoga, and what we can create together.”
That statement, that the company was collaborating with the charity to offer yoga or wellness instruction to victims, was later proven false by Family Place executive director Paige Flink, who told Dallas' CultureMap that only after the sign was posted and backlash ensued, the store's manager reached out to set up a meeting to discuss a potential partnership.
But a misleading post on the NorthPark store's Facebook page may lead consumers to think otherwise, saying that the store is "partnering with The Family Place to create a wellness program for their staff," while Flink clarified, "Their preferred method of providing support is through yoga classes or wellness lessons. We have not finalized any details on how they will help clients and/or staff of the Family Place."
Admitting it "missed the mark" with the window display, several Facebook users questioned whether the brand even understands the meanings behind "yoga, union or peace,"—mantras that the retailer preaches through its products and its blog.
Unfortunately, the Dallas debacle is just the latest PR hiccup that the brand has essentially created in the last several months. Following its major "sheer pants" issue in March, the brand also came under fire for shunning plus-size women. After losing millions of dollars and tarnishing its reputation, the brand saw the departures of its CEO, Christine Day and its Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson—a role it has only now just filled.
The brand has hired former president of apparel for Kmart, Tara Poseley, as its new Chief Product Officer. Posely gained a reputation as an expert in branding—and a fitness buff during her time with the Sears company. Her new duties include merchandising, product design and strategic planning.
Here's hoping she's got some marketing sense, too, as it seems Lulu is lacking.
Image courtesy Dallas Culture Map.