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How Lululemon Broke the Mold, with Chip Wilson

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by James Wang, Analyst
How Lululemon Broke the Mold, with Chip Wilson
How Lululemon Broke the Mold, with Chip Wilson

How Lululemon Broke the Mold, with Chip Wilson

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This week’s guest is Chip Wilson, entrepreneur, philanthropist and most notably, the founder of apparel company Lululemon. Long before Apple and Tesla opened their owned stores, Lululemon pioneered the concept of vertical retail in North America. Unlike other sports apparel companies that sold to retailers, Lululemon designed products were sold exclusively in its own stores. By owning all aspects of design, marketing, and retail, it commanded software like gross margins.

In this episode, Chip gives his insights on Lululemon’s business model, why Kit and Ace didn’t take off and his latest involvements in Amer and Anta, which some are calling the Nike of China. We are excited to discuss with Chip his innovative business model approach and how Lululemon was able to become brand pioneers, carving out a corner of apparel and creating the athleisure market.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How Chip characterizes the apparel space and what set Lululemon apart.
  • How Lululemon maintains its gross margins.
  • The difference between wholesale retail apparel and vertical retail.
  • Why the vertical store model was so effective for Lululemon.
  • Why, despite the rising dominance of Internet shopping, pure ecommerce does not work.
  • Learn how Chip staffed his initial stores and the approach he took to personnel.
  • Discover why Chip didn’t get too involved in ecommerce initially, and his take on it right now.
  • Insights into Chip’s current ventures with Amer and Anta in China.
  • Valuable lessons that Chip has learned from working in China.
  • Chip’s take on the way Chinese companies are run and whether it’s a balanced approach.
  • The role that Chip believes technology will play in apparel as the industry grows.
  • Chip’s relations with Lulu now, and why he advises against hiring an operational CEO.