by Cristina

Online Only? What Is Happening To Lululemon?

July 28, 2016

Following up to my Cool Racerback post yesterday [Is Lululemon Eliminating The Cool Racerback…Again?] various people have confirmed with their stores that in fact the Cool Racerback is being replaced with the Cool Racerback II, and the Cool Racerback will be online only in addition to several other products. The Define Jacket, Free To Be Bra, Ta Ta Tamers, Scuba Hoodies, Studio Pants are all moving to online only. Several months ago I had an industry speculator interview me and I drew their attention to Lululemon’s new trend of making products exclusively available online, while stores are getting very limited product drops with products being strategically distributed to only certain stores, or US only. There have been many items I’ve been interested in over this past year that have completely bypassed my closest store altogether and only gone to 2-3 stores across Canada.  

I’m really confused as to what the strategy is behind this new Online Only/limited store release trend. Doesn’t having fewer products available in store affect that stores square footage sales? Are they trying to pump up the optics of online sales to investors? What is the value of having an e-commerce site over perform against it’s brick and mortar stores? Anybody have insight from within the company they’d like to share, or perhaps insight from an investors point of view?

Another thing I’m investigating that has come up a few days ago is a reader from the US ordered an item for herself off the Canadian side, using the address of a Canadian friend who was willing to forward to her her purchases. The following day at upload she tried to make a purchase and realized she had been blocked by Lululemon from purchasing off the website. She’s contacted Lululemon and they are sending her query to a ‘Payment Verification Specialist’ to figure out why she has been blocked from making further purchases but she has not heard back yet. 

Online Only Items

42 comments so far.

42 responses to “Online Only? What Is Happening To Lululemon?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I'm baffled. I really don't understand this company's reasoning for what they choose to do at all. It is beyond me. I think the company is going down the drain to be honest. Anytime I've been able to make a trip to my closest store within the past year there has been much less product to choose from, also a lot less people browsing, compared to previous years.

    I get the feeling these online only items will end up being discontinued. Last year they said the Scuba II would be online only once the Scuba III released, and it was online only for a very short time after that and in very limited colour choices (mostly re-released patterns from the previous year that they probably wanted to use up the fabric for) until they canned it completely not long after. Also, a lot (most) of the CRBs this last while have been re-releases of previous colours (I wonder if they're just using up the fabric or old stock before discontinuing them).

    • Lulumum says:

      What really baffles me though is the new product that debuts as online only. The 'tight stuff crops', 'Cool racerback lace', '5 mile singlet'. Why are these new products only making it online? I think it's clear the old product are being phased out by being put online only and that their time is marked.

  2. Lululover says:

    I wonder what's coming up instead of Define? I hope they are bringing back Forme. I'm not a big fan of Define( that stupid vent on the back iterates me to no end), & was only buying them bc they phased out Formes. Now I hope they are coming back!!

    • Anonymous says:

      I like the Forme Jacket too, but not as much as Define… the Forme shoulders area doesn't fit as nicely as Define.

    • Anonymous says:

      The problem was that everyone complained when they took away the Define, but then they brought it back and it wasn't selling.

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm pretty sure it isn't selling because when they brought it back they brought it back with a ridiculous price hike. Not to mention the quality of material and craftsmanship has gone downhill a lot since they were discontinued. $118 is too much for what it is. $98 is fair, $108 is pushing it, $118 is ridiculous.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The account block happened to me as well, a couple weeks ago.
    I placed an order, and came in with a payment error. Tried two different cc, and it continued to come up as error. tried my pp, which held the funds, but lulu canceled, saying item not in stock. I was shipping to my same home address.
    Upload Tuesday came around, and I was itching to get my hand on a pair of Dottie tribes. Same error message came in as I attempted check out.
    I contacted gec, they couldn't place my order either. The rep suggested I call my credit card companies, said the issue wasn't coming from their end. Called both, and PayPal. No issues on my end.
    Called back next day, again told "it's not us, it's you" I had to request to speak with IT support, and was finally told they would forward the issue to the finance department.
    Was cleared up 24 hours later.
    My issues with this is, I've held an account with lulu for over 9 years. I have spent a shamefully embarrassing amount of money in that time. The least they could do is call before they freeze an account, or make a note on a file.
    Not even an apology.

    imo, as a company, they are making bad choices. They are alienating customers, and interfering with individual (franchise) stores relationship with their customers, and ultimately their sales 🙁

    • Lulumum says:

      Did they confirm with you that they had blocked you? Did they say why? I wonder if they are cracking down on angeling activity or if this is something else.

    • Anonymous says:

      I'm guessing another glitch in their system – cracking down on angeling is too sophisticated for Lulu

    • Anonymous says:

      I wasn't offered an explanation. The call was from a gec rep, returning my call for another gec rep, retuning the call from the finance department.
      It must be something else. The odd times I have Angeled, the items have been in my usual size ranges purchased, and I have processed the purchase on my cc.
      I don't live close to a store, so when do place an order of the same item in multiple sizes, (as the fit can often be unpredictable), the items that were not necessary are retuned via online protocol.

    • Anonymous says:

      It happened to me in the winter. I was shipping to either my work address or my husbands work address and then all of a sudden I was blocked. I tried getting in touch with them to resolve it, which actually took about 4 days because the first time around no one got back to me on what was happening. They blocked my account because they didn't think it was me ordering, and I had to go out of my way to get proof that it was me.

    • Anonymous says:

      This whole thing bugs me. I have purchased from both US and Canadian websites (I have sent to a US address though I reside in Canada). It was not a problem for me before. The (previous) website allowed a Canadian billing address and a US shipping so it wasn't a problem. I haven't done it since the website changed though. I don't do it often because of the exchange rate, but there's been a few items that US got that we didn't or that sold out on the Canadian side but not on the US side.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don't under why they'd be concerned with Angel Activity as a sale is a sale. If they'd just put all their products across the border, they wouldn't have to "worry" about "scandalous" transactions. Now huge lots of items going up on eBay, that's a different can of worms. *Insert eye roll*

    • Michelle Lu says:

      Agreed Anon @1012! It's a sale – who cares if someone bought an item to send to their friend in another country? Lulu gets a sale, Fedex/USPS/Canada Post gets some business, why is this a problem? The only thing they should be cracking down on is people buying entire size runs of rare items to resell on eBay.

    • Sf says:

      I ran into this issue last week with regards to my account. Tried to place an order online, kept getting the 04819 error code that says stuff about your CC number, address or CVV may be incorrect. I knew that couldn't be the case because I was using stored information that worked fine just the week before. Called GEC and they tried to do a phone order for me but ran into the same issue so they made a note in my account and said they would contact finance. I emailed GEC as well to see if that would speed things along. I was told to wait a couple of hours to see if things would clear on their own, but they didn't. Tried a couple of days later and still ran into issues. Called GEC yet again and this time a woman named Jane helped me and she is the only GEC I have spoken with so far who was sharp and had a clue. I told her the error code and she said that the 481 part of the error code has to do with fraud activity — like reports of stolen goods to an address, etc. Since I ship to a work mailing address and there are a few other people who also order lulu to that address I think they may have changed the security permissions in their software or something and multiple orders with different names going to one address must have looked suspicious. Jane contacted the finance department and got it all cleared up and I was good to go in about an hour. Had it not been for her sharp skills and knowledge I would probably be dealing with GEC trying to get things resolved.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I live in Singapore so I have been using a mail forwarding service when I buy off the US site. The warehouse consolidates my shipments every month or so and I have them shipped to me. Since a couple of months ago, I had to use Paypal instead of my credit card to purchase the items. I've enquired about it and they said they can't allow me to checkout with my credit card directly because of my US shipping address as it's a warehouse, but apparently checking out using Paypal and shipping to that US address is no problem.

  5. Lulu are one of a very few companies that will ship to addresses that don't belong to the credit card holder or the main linked PayPal address I live in Australia and quite often order from the US site and have s friend ship them on to me. I love being able to buy your summer in our winter as its not always guaranteed we get the same prints at a later date. I'm hoping they don't take away this feature. When I log into the US site now it comes up with a message that says it appears you are browsing from Australia would you like to be re directed to the Australian site and I say noooooo 🙂

  6. Anonymous says:

    To be honest, I think it is strange that they ever allowed shipping to an address that doesn't belong to the credit card holder. It doesn't seem safe, as it makes it way too easy for someone to use a card that doesn't belong to them. Also, if they can block people so easily why can't they crack down on all the ebay buyers/people ordering multiple items for resale? It seems like they just don't care as long as they're making a sale and getting their money they don't care (if it's going to ebay or if someone is using a card that doesn't belong to them, etc).

    Also, I'll be in the minority here, but I'll never understand why so many people absolutely *need* (and hunt down/order from another store/angel/order from another country with a different address/ebay,etc etc) an item that isn't available in their own store/country/online/etc etc. I have wanted and missed out on so much stuff that I would have loved but if I can't get it online or in store myself then I just accept that and move on. I know I don't actually *need* anything that bad and that there will always be something that comes along that I'll want and when does the wanting end/do we really need everything we see that we like…

    • Rungirl7 says:

      They did crackdown on the eBay sellers at one point in 2014, but it backfired on them. Even "Mad Money's" Jim Kramer said it was not a good play on Lululemon's part. Lululemon apologized and no longer blocked IP addresses from buying. I can understand what you are saying about wanting/needing. I personally love Lululemon and have spent a shameful amount of $$ there. To me a special item whether it be in my country or not is a treasure. I like to go on treasure hunts, and hope I can get my hands on the prized possession. Sometimes I am victorious and other times I am not and I do get over it. I am in a "family" of Lulu lovers and the pursuit of the brand is a true obsession/addiction. I think that is a phenomenon for any brand that you would have such a loyal following. I am anxious to see how all these changes pan out. Thanks for the reminder that we actually don't "need" any of it! That might be exactly what everyone decides after all these changes!!

    • Khristi says:

      "I think it is strange that they ever allowed shipping to an address that doesn't belong to the credit card holder."

      I've never had to ship to a friend an item I "need" but my best friend lives in the US and I am in Canada, so it's nice being able to ship her gifts and check out from the US side. Amazon also lets me use US amazon to ship her things, and many sites dont have US And CAD sites so I can just check out, it is very frustrating to get a site to try to buy her/her kids a gift for a holiday/birthday/etc and not be able to because my billing and shipping address are different.
      AND on that note, if they took it away it wouldn't matter if she was in country or not, but to not be able to ship to family in another town even, it would be annoying. It is much more convenient when a website will ship a gift for you.

  7. Anonymous says:

    With LLL pumping out new product weekly it has to be challenging for stores to always find room for this new product. The stores I frequent are always full of stock and the smaller sq. ft. ones are always jam packed with no room to spare. So to me it makes sense to have certain product for online only but it will be interesting to see what product they choose to keep out of stores and for purchase online only. I can see product that is familiar to customers such as the swiftly scoop neck being an easy choice for online only as the majority of lulu shoppers know their swiftly size and don't really need to see it in person and try on before purchasing so it is a good choice in that respect as well as low probability for return. Having a few popular products as online only should bolster their online sales, no doubt about it, and as long as they keep pumping new product weekly into their stores, online purchasing should not hurt store sales. They will need to replace the product they are losing to online only with product equally or more popular. It's going to put a lot of pressure on their designers to come up with new product for stores that will meet or exceed sales of product they are losing to online only purchases.

    OR, is this move to put certain established product to online only a stepping stone to their demise? I believe the CRB becoming online only is a precursor for it's demise just like the Scuba. They will not want the original around for too long competing for sales against their new version. I have to wonder about the Dance Studio Pants becoming an online only purchase. Are the DSP, the last of the Dance Studio Line, going the way of the jacket and crops and headed for the chopping block?

  8. JacallyL says:

    I work in retail (not for lulu) our companies policy with online exclusive items is that they can more accurately track data and test styles because they can gauge a better and more accurate idea of exactly who is purchasing what, their spending patterns from their credit card data and shopping patterns from the styles. Example being if it's added to cart but not checked out at all or until a later date. It's a fancier, albeit annoying way of data mining. Being that these are older styles and the lulu track record they are probably gauging what will stay and what will eventually go based off who will still put out the effort to seek out these styles that are online only.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If it's true that the Dance Studio Pant will become an online only purchase do you realize there will be nothing left of this iconic line available in store for purchase? I don't know how everyone else feels about this but I see it as an end of an era at LLL that this line which helped put LLL on the map and was such a large part of LLL success, will no longer be available in store. I don't mean to be a debbie downer here but I can't help but feel that this has been new management's intention from the start and what Chip Wilson has been referring to when he says this company does not have a clear vision because in order to take away such an important line without anything better to replace it with is to me a clear lack of direction and vision. I hope I am wrong but it seems so evident with the discontinuation of the Dance Studio Jacket and Crop that the Dance Studio Pant is headed in the same direction and the famous Dance Studio Line will be no more. Not only was the product line great but so was the name. When the In Flux Line was created to replace the Dance Studio Jacket and Crop not only did the product pale in comparison but so did the name.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Bye bye company….I feel it's being reinvented to be something completely different!

    • Anonymous says:

      I feel the same way. I actually don't know if I even care anymore, maybe time to say goodbye once and for all if this is the way they want it to be. There isn't much left that I like these days anyway.

  11. This may sound odd, but online exclusive makes me very happy. I live more than 3 hrs. from the nearest back and mortar store, plus I am what Lululemon considers to be a "fringe size" (size 2) – so the fact that items are only offered online is great. Oftentimes, styles will be offered online in only sizes 4-10, and 2's and 12's will be available only in-store. So online only means they have ALL sizes available online. thank goodness!

  12. Anonymous says:

    While I understand making some items online only since they are items that most people own and are familiar with the fit/size to order, I don't understand it with new items. I have often ordered on an upload, gone in to the store to try the item on only to discover the (usual) size I ordered won't fit. I prefer to try items on, especially new items, to confirm the fit. Otherwise I'll be continually buying items in 2 sizes and returning one which is not appealing.

  13. I mean, you guys know they're going to say this "bump" in sales online is due to the new website redesign at the next board meeting right? That's why they dumped all that product online only on WMTM while leaving the outlets relatively low stock, and why so many of these items are going to so few stores and we all have to stalk the (terrible) website every tuesday night.
    If you think this has anything to do with customer loyalty or equitable product distribution you're delusional- two weeks in a row I've bought items on a tuesday that were 100% sold out online on wednesday. They know exactly what they're doing.

  14. I mean, you guys know they're going to say this "bump" in sales online is due to the new website redesign at the next board meeting right? That's why they dumped all that product online only on WMTM while leaving the outlets relatively low stock, and why so many of these items are going to so few stores and we all have to stalk the (terrible) website every tuesday night.
    If you think this has anything to do with customer loyalty or equitable product distribution you're delusional- two weeks in a row I've bought items on a tuesday that were 100% sold out online on wednesday. They know exactly what they're doing.

  15. Lulumum says:

    What's weird to me about this is that they have the ability to partition the website so your IP can only purchase in your own country, but instead of doing this they are going after shoppers checking out and being punitive to the customer as if the customer did something wrong, when they can easily prevent these transactions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good Point and just another example of why this new website is a joke.

    • Rungirl7 says:

      I agree Lulumum. If they did not want us to purchase from another country then set up website so you can't do that. Instead we are treated like we've done something wrong. WE are the ones who have to make it right. If they suspect fraud on our account shoot us an email. Let us respond. Instead we have to go round and round with GEC. OR educate GEC what to do if someone calls in. Make them all a "payment verification specialist."

  16. Anonymous says:

    Anon 4:01pm The reason you state for them putting more product as online only may be true and yes they will boast about an increase to online sales due to the wonderful newly designed website NOT. I also believe certain product marked "online only" is only a step away from being canned. My take on why there is so much product on WMTM that was not specifically made for online only is that their overall sales in store and online this summer have been poor and they are trying to sell it first on a slight markdown then it will hit a warehouse sale. I don't their numbers for 2nd and the 3rd qtrs is going to be good and some of that due in part to the poorly redesigned website.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have been buying lululemon for years…spending enough on it to have purchased a brand new SUV as well as a dream exotic vacation. I have always used my account profile woth my stored cc and debit card as means of purchasing online. I never encountered any problems with doing so, regardless of changing card information or updating expiration dates. The other week I tried ro place an order to have it shipped to a friend's address in Canada (I'm in the U.S.) and all of a sudden I can't get it processed. I tried both my credit card and my debit card…making sure my info is correct and it wouldn't go through. Now, the only way I can purchase anything from the site (even the U.S. site) is to use my Paypal account. Very frustrating since I've purchased $$$$$$ over the years! Lulu is really turning me off lately with all of their changes and now this is like pouring salt in an open and festering wound. SMH

  18. janine57 says:

    I haven't been able to order on my cc lately it says edit card or cvv number in which I do and it still doesn't work. I used a new card once and then its been PayPal. Even pp didn't work once it said I needed an area code. My address hasn't changed. My gripe is why are they aggressively raising prices so much? They must be making buckets of money ! Maybe not like a few years back but that wouldn't realistically continue.

    • Anonymous says:

      yeah, raising the prices doesn't even make sense, like you say, they must be making boatloads of money, I mean, it makes sense if complete outright greed is the number one goal without a care in the world for the customer or pride for their product for that matter (good companies make these their priority). They are making this stuff as cheaply as possible in Asian countries as well as seems like the designers number one goal is to design with economy in mind over all else. I think most of us have noticed the decline in quality of the fabrics uses as well as the decline in quality of workmanship and even detail of designs (to me cheap mesh placed anywhere and everywhere isn't a good enough 'detail' to justify price hikes). Also, if their sales have gone down, then that is nobody's fault but their own for all the reasons stated above.

  19. Anonymous says:

    So many changes happening at Lululemon and none of them for the good. If they want to move some pieces to online only, first you should make damn sure that all of your quality, fabric and sizing issues and inconsistencies are fixed. There are so many things I don't order online for the fact that I feel like I need to see it in person first and see if it's any different from previous purchases. Your stores sure are going to be busy accepting returns.

    My husbands account was also blocked last week. He's conservative with his lulu dollars and is the opposite of an impulse buyer. He's been waiting since the spring/summer items season started for a pair of shorts that he liked. They finally showed up last week on the website. He went to order them and couldn't get the order to go through. We tried 3 different credit cards, a visa debit card and finally called GEC and they couldn't process the order either. We were told it had to be sent to 'specialists' who would get back to him. We waited 3 days with no communication and finally got an email that everything was ok and if it happened again to give them call. Well by that time the shorts he wanted were gone in his size, but more than that he was so frustrated with lulu freezing his account for no reason, no explanation for why it happened and no apology; that he didn't want the shorts anymore and feels jipped by the company. If you don't want his money, that's fine he'll take it somewhere else.

    So now we hear this has happened to other people too for no apparent reason, some of my favorite classic lulu pieces are moving to online only (probably for the purpose of being phased out) and us Canadians are getting prices increases (cuz in this economy and with the way the CAD is, it makes total sense to bump prices up now, eye roll) and I'm still not over them closing down HeyLululemon. For a company who boasts about community and that they're listening, you haven't heard us at all! In fact you've turned on us and expect us to keep flocking your way with our hard earned money to throw at you.

    I feel like I've been in a relationship with lulu for awhile. There have been some great times and I have some great pieces to show for it. But in the last little while, it feels like lulu has been trying to break up with me by being that boyfriend who does jerk things to make me move on and help it to not hurt so bad. Well, I think I'm starting to get the hints and it may be time to move on.

  20. Rungirl7 says:

    I concur! Well said Anon 7:24!

  21. Anonymous says:

    That is very interesting about the credit card issues. I tried to order from my account on my computer and encountered issues. It was the first time ordering on the new site so I thought It was just me. It kept telling me to enter the card ccv. It is the same card so always use. Then it was telling me to enter a valid address–it was already pre-filled with the address I always use.

    I didn't call anyone. I thought, LLL you suck, and walked away. Later, I pull up my account on my phone. My bag still had the items. For kidding I proceed to complete the order. It went through and I have received my shipment. I would not have called them. I don't care that much. So they are lucky it worked.on my phone.

    As for online only orders. Agreed it means something will be made defunct. Probably has an angle involving flipping stock between warehouses or shipping from different warehouses (they already do that in the US) versus retaining in brick & mortar stores

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