Lululemon shares have taken a beating since the company’s investor meeting earlier this month.
Shares have fallen 14% since the April 17 presentation, where analysts say the company’s new CEO, Laurent Potdevin, failed to provide an adequate plan for stabilizing the business. Sales are estimated to be flat this year, down from an average 20% to 30% growth in previous years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The meeting also led to an entirely new problem for Potdevin: He’s become the target of tabloid newspapers for his weight and “dumpy” appearance.
The New York Post published a story quoting two shareholders who said Potdevin’s physical appearance at the meeting made them question whether he’s a good ambassador for a brand that sells yoga and athletic apparel.
The Daily Mail covered the story under the headline, “Does Lululemon’s ‘dumpy’ CEO need to do yoga himself?” and New York Magazine’s Maggie Lange also followed up, writing, “Excellent plan! Hiring a CEO who faces tabloid fat-shaming is a surefire way to appeal to yoga-pants seekers of every size. Lululemon has got this re-branding thing all figured out.”
While Potdevin has made no claims he does yoga, he is known to snowboard and ski regularly.
It’s pretty uncommon for a CEO to face this kind of criticism, but the company’s recent performance — and the fact that it sells yoga apparel — gives the issue some relevance, according to David Srere, the co-CEO of branding and design firm Siegel+Gale.
“If Lululemon was hitting their numbers from a financial performance standpoint, this would not be a story,” Srere said.
Potdevin’s physical fitness isn’t going to move markets the way his presentation to investors did, but it can impact shareholder confidence, Srere said.
“The role of the CEO is to personify the brand,” he said. “If someone asked me, ‘Does this guy take yoga regularly, is this guy into fitness?’ I would say ‘no.’
“He can’t come out and say, ‘I live and breath this company,’… And that’s a missed opportunity for him to better personify the brand.”
Lululemon declined to comment on the criticism of Potdevin, who was formerly the president of TOMS Shoes and Burton.
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