Lululemon Athletica charges about $US30 more for a pair of basic yoga pants than Gap Inc.’s Athleta simply because it knows women will pay for the brand.
Lululemon’s $US98 pair looks almost exactly like Athleta’s $US69 pants. The materials, a mixture of nylon and Lycra, are also the same.
The Lululemon pants are made of the brand’s own patented “Luon,” which is 86% per cent nylon and 14% Lycra.
Athleta also makes its yoga pants with its own patented material — called Pilayo — which is 88% nylon and 12% Lycra.
Both are advertised as stretchy, breathable, and moisture-wicking.
The only real difference we found between the two pairs of pants is that Lululemon’s has a hidden waistband pocket. So is that pocket worth $US30?
Probably not, which has led some analysts to wonder whether Lululemon’s pricing will remain sustainable as the yoga apparel market gets increasingly competitive.
“I think there is a pretty dedicated fan base for [Lululemon’s] product but people are getting increasingly concerned about how the product is being made,” said Morningstar analyst Jaime Katz.
The $US10 billion yoga apparel empire suffered a huge blow in March when it had to recall 17% of its pants for being too sheer, which could cost the company as much as $US67 million in revenue this year.
Spelling more trouble for the company, customer reviews for Lululemon’s basic yoga pant — the “Groove” — have turned increasingly sour. On Lululemon’s website, the pants barely have three stars out of five based on hundreds of customer reviews. Athleta’s pants, by comparison, have a customer rating of four-and-a-half stars out of five.
In the most recent reviews for the Lululemon pants, a majority of customers complained that the material feels cheaper than the brand’s original yoga pant, and dozens said their pants have begun pilling after several washes.
“The quality does not match the price tag,” wrote one reviewer. “I guess Lululemon is just so popular now that they don’t even have to care about quality anymore.”
Another reviewer lamented, “I have cheap pants from Target that have held up better. Where did the quality go?”
Unfortunately for those unhappy customers, the retailer doesn’t accept any returns after two weeks, and only accepts merchandise with original tags that has never been worn. Athleta, on the other hand, accepts returns at any time, even if the items have been worn.
Katz says while the Lululemon reviews are troubling, they don’t spell disaster for the company — yet.
“Athleta is gaining traction at the expense of Lululemon,” she said. “But at the end of the day, [Lululemon] really has this devoted fan base that’s going to carry it.”
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