In an article for the Huffington Post, Several Lululemon employees criticize the retailer for practices they say discriminate against customers who wear larger sizes.
According to one employee: “Most of the merchandise was presented out on the floor, hung on the walls, or folded neatly in cabinets for all the world to see. But the largest sizes — the 10s and the 12s — were relegated to a separate area at the back of the store …” HuffPo adds that “larger offerings were rarely restocked” and “the only styles available in those sizes were old designs whose fashion moment had long since passed.”
But is it possible that the purveyors of $98 yoga pants aren’t offensively size-ist or intentionally fat-shaming — they’re just sticking to retail strategy?
The absence of size tens and twelves on the floor might not be intended to discourage larger-size people from shopping in the store; it could be a matter of retail space. Often stores don’t display their smallest or largest sizes because there isn’t enough room.
“The exiling of larger clothing by Lululemon is a central piece of the company’s strategy to market its brand as the look of choice for the stylishly fitness-conscious,” writes HuffPo’s Kim Bhasin. But does that mean Lululemon hates fat people? Probably not. They just understand their market.
And their retail strategy is hardly egregious, at least compared to the antics of a place like Abercrombie & Fitch. In a 2006 interview with Salon, A&F CEO Mike Jefferies defended his stores’ failure to carry sizes XL and XXL. “A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong,” Jeffries said. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
Lest you think I’m defending Lululemon from a skinny, yoga-toned tower or whatever, I’ll admit that at a size ten, I can’t always fit into Lululemon’s largest yoga shorts, and their workout pants feel more like Spanx. I’m not outraged when I can’t find clothes that fit me at Lululemon — I’m just surprised, given the feel-good, live-healthy company ethos. If they followed the Dove Beauty model of embracing and celebrating real bodies, they’d be tapping a whole new profitable market. But apparently that’s not their brand, at least for now.