Lululemon aims to move past gaffes with new CEO, chairman
By Solarina Ho and Allison Martell
TORONTO (Reuters) - Lululemon Athletica Inc (LULU.O: Quote) named a new chief executive on Tuesday and said founder Chip Wilson will step down as chairman, as the upscale yogawear retailer tries to expand globally and put a series of embarrassing quality issues and other gaffes behind it.
The company said Laurent Potdevin, most recently president of trendy footwear brand TOMS Shoes, will replace Christine Day as CEO in January and emphasized Potdevin's role leading TOMS' global expansion.
Lululemon, in the early stages of a push into Europe and Asia, was forced to recall some of its signature black stretchy pants in March because they were see-through. The incoming CEO said quality will be a top priority when he takes the helm.
"Product and quality for any premium brand such as Lululemon is absolutely paramount," Potdevin told Reuters. "It will be a very clear area of focus for me."
Potdevin, who will move to Vancouver where Lululemon is headquartered, will have to deal with supply chain problems that caused the multimillion-dollar recall, fend off tough competition and shore up Lululemon's reputation.
"This company has jeopardized its long-term relationship with its customers over the last year, via some product quality issues, via some board communication by the founder," said Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss.
"What I'll be looking for are signs they can re-engage their customers in a positive way."
Lululemon's usually volatile shares, off nearly 15 percent since June when Day announced her intention to quit, initially rose on news of the management and board changes, but were down 1.5 percent at $69.25 on Nasdaq by late afternoon on Tuesday. Continued...