Report: Lululemon's Business Strategy Doesn't Include Plus-Size Customers

Plus-size customers who shop at Lululemon apparently shouldn't expect the same treatment as their skinnier counterparts. According to the Huffington Post, a lack of larger clothing sizes at most of the fitness retailer's stores isn't just chance, but is part of a concerted effort to market to women the company feels fits its image.

"Far from an accident, the exiling of larger clothing by Lululemon is a central piece of the company's strategy to market its brand as the look of choice for the stylishly fitness-conscious, according to former employees and consumer advocates," reporter Kim Bhasin said in the Huff Post article.

Lululemon certainly isn't the first to run into criticism for this type of "brand maintenance.' Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE:ANF) was recently under investigation in France for only hiring attractive employees, and CEO Mike Jeffries put his opinion down in black and white in a 2006 interview with Salon.

"A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong," he told Salon. "Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don't alienate anybody, but you don't excite anybody, either."

Despite slowing growth, Lululemon still doesn't feel the need to market to plus-size customers, and some have argued that that makes sense from a business perspective. Retailers try to get the most money out of the space they have, which for many means putting the products that drive profits out front and marginalizing plus-size clothing.

Still, it has been done. Forever 21 has its own plus-size line, Forever 21+, as does H&M. Even Gap's (NYSE:GPS) Athleta yoga brand, Lululemon's biggest competitor, offers "expanded' sizes.

So far, Lululemon hasn't felt a financial backlash from these policies, something that could be attributed to its already exclusionary customer base: it's a store that only skinny people tend to shop at, so the lack of larger sizes doesn't really affect them. But that doesn't mean that customers haven't noticed.

In a 2010 blog post entitled "Love Your Body," a Lululemon blogger waxed lyrical about how readers should be confident in how they look, alongside pictures of skinny Lululemon girls. One commenter noted the hypocrisy best: "So what you're saying is 'Love your body...but not unless you're skinny enough to fit into our clothes.'"

For more:

- See this Huffington Post story

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