Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

March 20, 2013

Lululemon yanks see-through pants from store shelves

NEW YORK (AP) — Lululemon has yanked its popular black yoga pants from store shelves and online after it found that the sheer material used was revealing too much of its loyal customers.

The see-through yoga garb is the latest in a series of quality glitches that threatens to alienate the retailer’s hardcore fan base, which has so far been more than willing to shell out $100 for pants and other athletic garments. These legions of followers have helped Lululemon, founded in 1998, become a billion-dollar business.

Eva Glettner, 33, of Los Angeles is a case in point. Glettner, who has been a devoted fan of Lululemon, said she’ll now shop only at Target to buy her yoga outfits.

“You expect a certain quality, and they definitely let me down,” Glettner said. “For that price point, it’s unacceptable.”

Glettner says Target has similar pants for $30. “It’s hard enough making a commitment to working out without worrying about whether you are baring your behind.”

Lululemon Athletica Inc. said on its website that it first began to understand the extent of the problem on March 11 as part of its weekly call with store managers, who voiced worries about sheerness. Lululemon declined to respond to Associated Press queries about whether the problem was discovered when customers started to return the Luon pants, the latest batch of which went on sale at the beginning of the month.

But Faye Landes, an analyst at Cowen & Co., believes customers reported the problem to store managers, who in turn reported back to management.

“If this is indeed the case, we suspect a serious lapse in (the company’s) supply chain, quality control and vendor management and specifically in its quality assurance program,” she said.

Investors usually like transparency. But not in this case. Lululemon’s stock price slid $3.90, or 6 percent, to $62, before recovering and closing Tuesday at $64.08, lobbing more than $250 million off of its market value in one day. The stock is down 16 percent so far this year, while the broader markets have been hitting multiyear highs.

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