Commercial Yoga

It would appear that I am not the only one concerned with the increasingly commercial side of Yoga in North America.

We appeared so target market: women who, according to the Lululemon literature, pursue exercise to achieve physical fitness and inner peace. (And who have bought into the notion that looking swell at the same time is somehow more elevating.)

Being the politically aware, social activist type, she was not happy. The well-worn hoodie, years old now, still bore its “Made in Canada” label. The other togs were brand new and, she lamented, made in China.

She would not have purchased these latest items, she said, were it not for the fact that she had been given a gift certificate, so she was locked in to a purchase.

She wondered: has Lululemon lost its soul?

I’m not so sure it ever had one.

Don’t get me wrong. The yoga-clothing maker is going like gangbusters. It merely indicated yesterday that third-quarter sales will probably exceed expectations. That was enough to send the share price shooting up a surreal $6 and change to close at $46.35.

. . . .

Surprisingly, the company does not produce a corporate social responsibility report. In its absence, shareholders can’t test the boilerplate assertions now offered up by the company. “Social responsibility is in our DNA” is one example.

Thus far, Lululemon has expanded while holding firm to its grassroots marketing style and proclaiming that a community-based culture has put the company at a competitive advantage. That will truly be challenged only as the company expands aggressively in the United States.

Back at home, I fear my yoga pal will not be making a return trip to Lululemon any time soon.

Lululemon tries activism on for size, 17 Oct 2007