Since it launched in 1998, lululemon has always been about transformation and innovation.
At lulu fashion and function came together for the first time. Our technical fabrics and innovative designs drove a new look that transformed workout gear into stylish streetwear.
That innovation kick-started the “streetnic” (athleisure) market, a clothing category that has since grown to about $100 billion a year in annual
Lululemon was also the first to capture the spirit of the West Coast, where it’s ski, swim, board, bike, kitesurfing and work – all in one day. In 2011, lululemon needed to push for a new context for existing. This was reflected in our approach to design, culture, and shared values. Lululemon was superior because it continued to morph out of being a commodity company.
I the company’s single largest shareholder – and it’s biggest fan. My ongoing financial stake in lulu reflects a deep belief in the company’s potential to achieve great things on a number of fronts.
Recently, lululemon has taken a number of important steps toward future success. It brought a strong men’s line to market. It has used the latest technology to improve customer service and online shopping. It has expanded internationally. It has launched some great new stores.
I love what lululemon is doing to improve itself and its financial performance.
But just like the people who buy our clothing, it needs to keep pushing to the next level. It is important to remember that lululemon’s very foundation comes from the West Coast spirit, this inspiration was built into lululemon from the very beginning.
Elevatelululemon.com is a place where I share my observations on all things to do with the company. As the founder and largest individual shareholder, I continue to take a huge interest in how and what lululemon is doing.
My input comes from a good place. A place where transformation and innovation inspire lululemon employees and all the fabulous people who wear what they do. We are asking not for incremental change but for greatness.
Sometimes it’s worse to be right than wrong.
The lulu board made a decision in 2013 that it no longer needed its visionary founder. The non-visionary board members decided it was more important to safeguard shareholder money rather than re-invest and take advantage of the biggest change in the way people dress in the history of the world. A market created by lululemon which was left for the competitors to take.
I’ve chosen to drop off the board and publicly voice my concerns about the management and the performance of lululemon because there were 9 non-visionary folks on the board and only one visionary founder. The latest earnings for Q4 clearly demonstrate that those leftovers have blown it.
By 2020 lulu should be worth $20 billion but a short term driven CEO endorsed by directors with no insight into the operations of lululemon has missed the big picture. They’ve squandered the momentum and the opportunity to get bigger and better they have failed to innovate, develop people and forgotten the vision that separates the brand from the commodity marketplace.
The stock market, as usual, has jumped all over this weakness.
As the largest shareholder and someone who still cares deeply about lululemon, being so right about the company hurts me more directly than anyone else.
Even when the stock was at a 52-week high of more than $80 a share last August, I expressed my doubt that it was sustainable. Not only that, I flagged the fact that the company was headed for trouble because it has deviated so far from the foundational philosophy that made lulu great.
The board had nearly convinced me that I was wrong. It is clear now that the media has been wrong, and believe me, no PR department in the world can bullshit their way out of the appalling stock price over the last 5 years.
The board has lost $11 billion dollars in market capitalization from what lululemon could be if it were allowed to fulfill its potential. If the value of innovation, brand and people development could be measured, the board would be sued for fiscal irresponsibility.
The stock is down 27% in the last 5 years under the direction of Michael Casey as chairman and Marti Morfitt as chair of the audit committee.
The lulu CEO now has to scramble to save his reputation. The board members need to evaluate their value to be able to create a new vision for lululemon and if they cannot add value in this area they should do their job and give their board seat up for new blood.
Without a seat on the board, without the right to speak at the annual meeting, I’ve used other ways to get out my message directly. The media focuses on the quarter without analyzing the 3-5 year trend. They embrace the status quo and gobble up whatever lulu management feeds them. And we all know, you are what you eat.