Lululemon Is About to Go Ultra-Luxury

A major new company hire comes from the world of luxury fashion merchandising.

In fashion, clothing is almost always classified as either luxury, mid-range or fast — the latter includes giants such as H&M  (HNNMY)  and Fast Retailing  (FRCOF’) s Uniqlo, while the former is for established fashion houses such as Kering  (PPRUF) ‘s Gucci, Burberry  (BBRYF)  and LVMH  (LVMHF) .

The vast majority of brands one sees in stores fall into the mid-range category — while the actual clothing prices can vary pretty significantly, everything from Ralph Lauren  (RL) – Get Free Report‘s Americana-chic business casual to lululemon  (LULU) – Get Free Report‘s running tops and leggings are mid-range as far as investors are concerned.

Earlier this week, the activewear giant that originated out of Vancouver, Canada broke away from the mid-range/luxury binary and hired a veteran from the luxury fashion space.

Lululemon Announces a Major New Hire

While she arrives after just over two years at the large British fashion brand Boden, lululemon’s new Chief Merchandising Officer Elizabeth Binder had previously spent 12 years advancing through the merchandising ranks at Burberry.

Retail Dive, which first reported the news, said that Binder’s role will include making sure stores are stocked with the kinds of clothes that are selling as well as making sure they present “in a cohesive way that is both globally and locally relevant.”

“Throughout her career, Liz has proven her ability to bring teams together through times of immense acceleration and business expansion, and lead with clarity and vision,” Sun Choe, lululemon’s chief product officer and the person Binder will report to, said in a statement of the hire. “Liz’s proven leadership coupled with an astute understanding of consumer needs will help accelerate and scale all that is possible from a product, design and distribution standpoint.”

Prior to her two past roles, Binder has also worked at fashion brands like J. Crew and Ann Taylor. The new role will bring her to Vancouver, where the fashion company first started and its headquarters are based.


Is Lululemon Going Full Luxury Now?

So does this mean that lululemon is about to get as exclusive as the Burberry hand-painted Bloomsbury alligator purse that was selling for $37,000 in 2014?  That is extremely unlikely since the activewear giant built an audience on a vibe of West Coast casual chic — the clothes are considered to be higher-end than many other athletic brands but has too broad of a customer base to wade into true luxury fashion.

At the start of the pandemic, lululemon and Nike  (NKE) – Get Free Report both saw steady sales even as millions started working from home and stopped spending money on clothes more commonly worn for going out.

Spikes in sales are now being followed by a slight downturn. Estimates of fourth-quarter earnings were also recently brought down to $4.22-$4.27 from $4.20-$4.30 per share while even the busy holiday season failed to bring in as many sales as some executives hoped.

Lululemon has, over the years, experimented with different types of visions — most recently, it has been seriously tapping into the “all are welcome” and “find your true self” messaging that has become increasingly common in fashion. It also a year ago launched its first shoe line and experimented with a new lululemon Studio program for both in-person and virtual fitness classes.

“There is significant potential across all categories as consumers look for products that deliver without compromise when it comes to versatility, performance and style,” Binder said in a statement on her new role at Lululemon.

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