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Lululemon Founder Chip Wilson Steps Down Over ‘Thighs Rubbing Together’ Comment

NEW YORK (AP) — Founder of Lululemon Athletica Inc., Chip Wilson is stepping down as chairman after causing tempers to flare with his comments about the body types of potential buyers of the popular retailer’s yoga pants. The upscale yoga clothing label hopes some new faces at the top will help it bounce back after a series of embarrassing issues that have hurt its image of late.

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson [Vancouver Sun]

Lululemon founder Chip Wilson stepped down over his “thighs” comment. [Vancouver Sun]

Based in Vancouver, the company named lead director Michael Casey as chairman, who has been on Lululemon’s board since 2007. Wilson will resign as chairman before the company’s annual meeting in June. Potdevin will take over the top role in January and will become a board member at that time.Day is expected to stay with Lululemon through the end of its fiscal year to help with the transition. He will report directly to the board.
The Canadian company also announced their new CEO as Laurent Potdevin. Potdevin, a 20 year-industry veteran, was most recently CEO of Toms Shoes. She is set to replace Christine Day, who had been CEO since 2008, but announced her intentions to leave Lululemon in June.The management changes come as the maker of yoga clothing is trying to recover from a series of quality issues and other embarrassments that have threatened to alienate its loyal followers. Those devotees, willing to shell out $100 for a pair of yoga pants, helped Lululemon ring up $1.4 billion in sales last year.

But Lululemon has continued to endure complaints about the sheerness of some of its pants, at times making them see-through. Customers also complained of pilling after a few months of wear — or even just a few uses — and about holes and seams coming apart, has left many one-time fans feeling more than a little disgruntled.

Lululemon-Tops

Lululemon has endured complaints about the sheerness of some of its pants, which made them see-through at times. [Naperville Magazine]

The retailer pulled one style of its popular yoga pants from store shelves in the spring, blaming sheerness on a style change and production issues. Fixing the problem cost the company millions and made investors question quality control. New pants have since hit stores, but the sheerness complaints have continued, in addition to the new gripes about wear and tear.Wilson also raised ire by saying in a recent television interview that some women’s bodies “just don’t actually work” for Lululemon pants. He also said thighs rubbing over time will cause the pants to wear out too quickly. Wilson did seem to apologize to Lululemon’s workers for the criticism his comments received, but didn’t retract his original statements.

Thighs rubbing over time will cause the pants to wear out too quickly.

Analysts who follow the company believe Wilson alienated some core customers and potentially opened a door in the lucrative market to rivals like Nike, Under Armour, Athleta and others.

“Given the various product and supply chain hiccups the company has undergone this past year, we believe Mr. Laurent will bring a fresh start and new perspective at this retailer,” Jefferies retail analyst Randal Konik wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013, The Associated Press

Copyright 2013, The Associated Press

Potdevin told The Associated Press he plans to spend the first few months learning about the business, and establishing growth priorities for the company. He noted that products and quality will be a focus.

“Lululemon has created an amazing market,” he added. “Every time, you do that, the competitive landscape gets more intense.”

Shares of Lululemon Athletica Inc. slipped 28 cents to $70.06 in early afternoon trading Tuesday. The stock is down about 8 percent for the year and has been choppy since March when the company pulled the “see-through” yoga pants off shelves.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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