Lululemon had a disastrous 2013. First, the Vancouver, Canada-based athletic retailer was forced to recall a line of yoga pants, after the awkward revelation that they were essentially see-through. Then, in November, founder and then CEO Chip Wilson, in a terribly misguided bout of defensive posturing, told Bloomberg TV that "some women's bodies just don't actually work" for the company's clothing, implying that if your thighs deem to touch, you should probably shop elsewhere.
Unsurprisingly, the comment did not sit well with the company's primarily female customer base. A month later, Wilson resigned as CEO, effective this June.
If the retailer was hoping to turn around its image this year, it's not off to the greatest start. That's right: Lululemon has screwed up again.
In its latest misfire, the retailer banned customers who had sold Lululemon products on eBay from buying merchandise online, reportedly blacklisting their IP addresses.
While the policy was intended to stop large amounts of inventory from being sold at a higher price online, Therese Hayes, senior vice president of communications and sustainability, wrote in a statement to Bloomberg, it also targeted individuals who were not selling clothing items at elevated price points.
Frustrated customers took to Lululemon's Facebook page to complain. Many claimed to have turned to eBay due to the company's strict return policy, which states that unwanted merchandise must be returned within 14 days of purchase even if the item is a gift.
On Sunday, Lululemon backtracked from its aggressive tactics, issuing a statement of apology to CTV News. “We looked into it and realized that we had indeed gone too far, and have taken steps to fix it as quickly as possible. We are reaching out to apologize to the guests who were impacted.”
The uproar over blacklisted IPs is just the latest in a rash of bad publicity. Lululemon is currently seeking to dismiss an amended lawsuit accusing it of misleading and defrauding shareholders between September 7, 2012 and January 10, 2014, Reuters reported. Chargers include hiding defects in the recalled line of pants, and using deep discounting to boost market shares.
Last month, after Lululemon issued its second reduced earnings forecast, Chief Financial Officer John Currie told an industry conference that 2013 was a tough year. "You always hear the phrase that any PR is good PR. What we learned is that's not always the case," he said. "We're taking it seriously. Like, we get it."
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