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Does Lululemon hate plus-size shoppers?

August 06, 2013|By Alexandra Le Tellier
  • A woman walks past the Lululemon Athletica store at Union Square in New York.
A woman walks past the Lululemon Athletica store at Union Square in New York. (Mary Altaffer / Associated…)

Industry insiders are accusing Lululemon Athletica of neglecting plus-size shoppers.

According to some former employees and consumer advocates,  Lululemon actively deters plus-size women by not prominently displaying yoga pants in sizes 10 and up. (We can have a separate discussion another time about whether size 10 can actually be considered plus-size.)

One former employee told the Huffington Post’s Kim Bhasin that size 10s and 12s were left unattended in a separate part of the store. A former store supervisor told Bhasin that plus-sizes were ‘not displayed normally,’ saying that the store didn’t carry enough inventory in size 12 to promote.

The problem with this, writes Bhasin, is that “the dearth of plus-size products reinforces an implicit message that larger Americans have been absorbing for years: Shop only at select retailers that welcome your body type.”

But is the athletic wear company really practicing size discrimination? Is it really trying to ensure that only slender people will be seen wearing their clothes? Or is Lululemon simply responding to consumer demand?

Asked for comment, Alecia Pulman, a rep for Lululemon, told me what they tell their customers: “Our product and design strategy is built around creating products for our target guest in our size range of 2 to 12. While we know that doesn’t work for everyone and recognize fitness and health come in all shapes and sizes, we’ve built our business, brand and relationship with our guests on this formula.” Pulman also added: “We don’t manage or merchandise our size 10s and 12s differently from any other sizes.”

It might be tempting to blow off Lululemon’s official statement on the matter as hogwash. But to those who suspect that the brand actively dissuades plus-size shoppers from buying its clothes, I suggest visiting a few of the company’s stores.

As a shopper, I’ve been to Lululemon stores all across the city, zigzagging from Brentwood to Pasadena to Beverly Hills and to Studio City, and what’s always struck me about its stores are its employees.

Unlike Abercrombie & Fitch, which is notorious for favoring skinny staffers, Lululemon hires salespeople with a range of realistic body types. Think Dove’s “real beauty” campaign – only with women dressed in yoga pants.

Certainly every Lululemon location is different, and the company declined to comment on Bhasin’s article.

But if the company were really trying to dissuade bigger body types from wearing its clothes, wouldn’t it start with the salespeople who wear Lululemon while on the clock?

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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier and Google+

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