An interview with Lululemon’s Cambridge store manager Sean Tang
Lululemon Athletica seems unstoppable. Sales grew 61% year over, to $1.5billion. Not only are digital sales strong but its brick-and-mortar shops have experienced a remarkable rebound in the wake of the pandemic. The company opened 11 new stores this quarter and reported a 142% rise in-store revenue. Their recent opening in Cambridge is a testimony to this momentum.
Last Saturday, CUFLBS’ Zara Green sat down with the branch’s manager Sean Tang to discuss the strategy driving the brand’s success.
What was the build-up to the opening of the Cambridge branch like?
I spent five months working in the community, getting to know all the yoga studios, all the gym owners, trainers, as far as I could reach. I had a good response. People were very familiar with the brand and excited.
For the actual opening, we had just four weeks to turn the store over. It was obviously a very quick turnover but that’s kind of normal, and we managed to open on time.
Did you deliberately time the opening with the return of students? Or was it a coincidence?
It wasn’t intentionally planned. We usually time it based on business trends, patterns with seasonal staff, and with our own campaigns. I think the start of term just happened to be a good time for all those criteria.
And then that kind of brings me on to who's your target market? Obviously, there is a large student population, but there are companies based here as well.
We don’t have a set target audience because we like to cater to everybody. For example, the outfit I’m wearing could be worn by any age group. A lot of our styles are not gender-specific. We do extended sizes of everything, right up to a UK size 24 and down to a zero. Sometimes it depends on the product like we have a full wall of men’s pants that are super popular with businessmen.
However, we do provide athleisure so people who work out a lot or like to wear workout clothes make up our base market.
How have the first few weeks been? Has there been a high footfall? Does it translate into sales?
Yes. It’s been crazy. I can’t share sales, but I have a high personal standard for the shop and the response has met that standard. So we’ve done very well.
I saw on Instagram the yoga events you’ve been hosting with Cambridge Yoga and the upcoming fitness classes in the store’s studio. What have been the benefits of such an events-based PR approach?
This grassroots approach is how Lululemon’s grown so much. It's about getting into the communities, meeting the real people rather than advertising on a billboard or TV. Our events create a genuine firsthand experience with the guest which builds a stronger connection than say an Instagram advert. It also allows the store to become a hub for local trainers and yoga teachers. Lululemon then becomes more just a shop, but an active part of the local fitness community.
We’re currently creating a fitness studio above the store where we will be running yoga classes. They’re all free, just sign up in-store to join the Lululemon experience!
Lululemon’s Q2 results topped analysts’ expectations. What do you think are the factors behind Lululemon’s continued success?
Honestly, you've already mentioned it but what first drives people into the shop, is the events. Yet in the long run, our growth is thanks to the quality of our products. As soon as someone buys it, they then become a customer for life. Everyone just says the same thing, even my friends and family, they absolutely love the product and then they never want to wear their other clothes. The more people get into Lululemon, the more they love it.
What is so special about the products?
They’re at the front of our company and I could talk about them forever. Every single product has a function. They’re world-leading in their technology enabling them to serve that function in the best possible way. As well as being functional and flattering, they’re environmentally friendly. At least 75% of the polyester we use is recycled.
Some argue that Lululemon’s higher prices make the brand exclusive and alienating, despite marketing itself as a positive, inclusive brand community. How would you justify the price of a pair of align leggings?
Like I said, the product is the best in the world at what it does. we spend a long time producing each individual product and they’re made to last. So if we weren't to provide such a high-quality product, we could then reduce the price.
For example, the t-shirt I’m wearing, the metal vent, if you want to have one of these, I'm paying more than an average retail price but I could train in it five days in a row and sweat in it five days in a row and it wouldn’t smell.
In terms of students, we do have student discounts available online.
Has Lululemon’s supply chain been affected by the global disruptions? Can we expect Christmas gifts from Lululemon?
Yes! Our supply chains are under control. We’re all set for Christmas!
NOTE: Excerpts from the interview have been edited for clarity.
 Nasdaq report on Lululemon’s Q2 results
Vice President of Events
Cambridge University Fashion & Luxury Business Society