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Lululemon Accused of Discriminating Against Larger Customers

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Photo via Lululemon
Photo via Lululemon

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Lululemon's sales and financial results are still shaky in the wake of ">that notorious see-through pants recall. Now several former Lululemon employees say another aspect of the company's business is shady. They say the retailer purposefully makes it hard for customers who wear larger sizes (which, in the Lululemon universe, means a 10-12) to shop there. While sizes 0-8 in a variety of colors fill the sales floor and cabinets, the handful of larger sizes that a store has at any given time are "displayed" in a heap under a table in the back. A former sales assistant, Elizabeth Licorish, says her store offered one level of service to its smaller customers, and another to would-be shoppers who were larger:

These larger offerings were rarely restocked, said Licorish, who worked at Lululemon for four months in 2011. The only styles available in those sizes were old designs whose fashion moment had long since passed.

"All the other merchandise in the store was kind of sacred, but these were thrown in a heap," Licorish told The Huffington Post. "It was definitely discriminatory to those who wear larger sizes."

A former supervisor at a different store reported the same thing.

The supervisor said:

Size 12 yoga pants were "not displayed normally" in her store and were consigned to a heap in the rear because her store didn't carry much inventory in that size. It would have looked strange had workers put the few 12s out on the floor with the rest of the sizes, the former supervisor said.

"We didn't want it to look sparse," she said, adding that the size 12s tend to gather dust. "They just sit in the store and you sell them like once every six months."

Maybe sales were so rare because if you wore a size 12 and wanted to pay $100 for a pair of stretchy pants, but had to root through a pile under a table in the back to do it, you might not be in a hurry to go back to that store? Just a hunch.

Many retailers use decisions about which sizes to carry and how they are to be displayed as a means of communicating to their customers about what "kind" of store they are. And it always seems to be larger and plus sizes that get the short end of the stick: those are the sizes that are stocked online, but not in stores. That are relegated to the back and never showcased in the windows. That are not stocked in all styles or all colorways, and are not refreshed. These are all ways of subtly making certain customers feel welcome and others feel unwelcome. Lululemon is under no obligation to reach all customers, but the company's "Love your body" marketing shtick makes its stance pretty hypocritical.

— Jenna Sauers

· Shunning Plus-Size Shoppers Is Key To Lululemon's Strategy, Insiders Say [HuffPo]
· Lululemon Recalls See-Through Pants, Shortage Ensues [Racked]
· Lululemon Axes Product Chief After See-Through Pant Recall [Racked]
· All Lululemon News [Racked]