Lemons, Lemonade, & Lululemon

So it’s no secret that the mall is in trouble. A number of factors have put this american institution in hot water; the current economy, changing consumer preference, renaissance in boutique shopping, the internet, you name it. The farther we seem to progress as a society, the smaller the mall seems to grow in the rearview mirror.

Tonight I had some errands to do, and having not been to a mall in probably a year, I decided to check it out. I’m not a fan of malls at all, but on a Thursday night I knew it wouldn’t be too bad. In general everything was pretty empty. Sales associates lounged around waiting for the night to end. There were a few uncomfortable situations where the people that work the hair extension carts were shaking down random passers-by, but mostly things were pretty dead. Then I walked past the Lululemon store.

In side the store, which is know for selling yoga-styled active wear, they had moved all the clothing racks to one side and there was a class teaching thirty 40+ women how to dance like Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It was amazing. There were possibly more people in that store than in the next 10 stores combined. Back at home, a little research makes me believe that most stores have their own twitter account where they post store activity and lifestyle links. They also host all sorts of events in the store at the times you would expect the store should be completely empty, like Saturday and Sunday morning or Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Most store managers would be inclined to staff at lower levels on those nights to keep costs down. Most store managers would be hesitant to rearrange the store for a temporary event. Lululemon broke the rules and took the non-obvious route. They used their brand equity to create a community around their stores, and their customers were having a blast with it. They found a way to engage when everyone else threw in the towel. They took lemons and they made lemonade.

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