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Lululemon to Launch Footwear, Open Chicago Experiential Store

Lululemon is set to roll out footwear as competition in the athletic footwear space heats up.

Though offering little detail on the move toward footwear, Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald said at the company’s Analyst Day presentations Wednesday, that the retailer has “identified an opportunity unique to us and in the marketplace, [and is] looking to do it ourselves.”

According to Sun Choe, Lululemon chief product officer, it’s about “doing more outfitting against activity” as a way to dress consumers from head to toe for different activities–such as run, train or yoga–and it’s a way to grow into adjacent product categories.

What’s more, Choe noted, the company has a “rich pipeline” of sensory experiences, or white space, for Lululemon enthusiasts. Those sensory experiences are based more on engineering different sensations in a garment through fabrication, so one item can let someone feel more free in certain parts of the body and in other areas, more tucked in.

As the company looks at fine-tuning loyalty and community, the McDonald said it will do so “through the lens of the experiential user.”

Lululemon is testing stores that are larger in size than its traditional retail base, and looking at growing both the physical store and online retail. Many medium-size stores could shift to larger size doors, though how much larger will depend on finding the right combination of store size and maintaining productivity, as well as the breadth of assortment.

The expanded store size will also be a way for Lululemon to ramp up the community feel in its stores. The company hosted nearly 4,000 events in stores last year, according to McDonald, who stressed the importance of creating physical and mental health as a way for consumers to connect with those around them—and a way for Lululemon to further connect with its consumers.

As such, while many retailers are closing stores and shrinking their footprints, Lululemon is planning a new 25,000 square-foot experiential store in Lincoln Park, Chicago as part of a plan to highlight its vision of community.

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The new Lincoln Park location will open in July 2019, and will come complete with yoga studios, mediation space, healthy juice and food, and areas for community gatherings.

While some stores already include a much smaller footprint for meditation space, the new store is really a test for larger stores in the future. And while expansion of product lines necessitate a need for some additional square footage, the Lincoln Park test is more about Lululemon’s vision of community and  connecting with its loyal customer base.

“Over seven million guests were shopping Lululemon last year. The top 20 percent who spend [at Lululemon] have a 92 percent engagement [with the brand]. Our most loyal are incredibly loyal,” McDonald said. Lululemon guests and ambassadors also play a role in product innovation, according to the CEO, and that’s because they have a point-of-view on the product that Lululemon stands for.