The lululemon yoga pants saga is now really starting to get weird. Lucky for us, lululemon held its fourth quarter FY2012 earnings call today, just a few days after announcing that due to a manufacturing error its famous yoga pants are essentially see-through.
CEO Christine Day used the opportunity to address some of the concerns from financial analysts, stressing that the company was taking its customer’s concerns seriously and doing everything it could to address the issue. Specifically, she said that the company is “working with [its] suppliers to do some additional testing of any old stock” that it has, before too many see-through pairs of pants hit store shelves.
That’s all very well and good, I suppose. Company sees a problem, company fixes a problem. Sam Poser, an analyst at Sterne, Agee, & Leach, got to the crux of the matter though with his question:
Secondly, I guess the question is this I understand that you don’t’ understand how this exactly happened, but I guess the question is how did it get to where it would shipping without somebody trying on a pair of pants, would you like the first batch to make sure that this wasn’t an issue, and stopping it before it got so out of control and then what is going to be sort of do you see as the incremental cost of adding the different people, the new QA and so on and so forth at the different factories and so on to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.
CEO Christine Day responded (bolding mine):
The truth of the matter is that the only way that you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over. So, just putting the pants on themselves doesn’t solve the problem. So because it passed all of the basic metric tests and the hand feel is relatively the same. So, it was very difficult for the factories to isolate the issue and it wasn’t until we got into the store and started putting it on people that we could actually see the issue.
That’s right, the only method the company has for testing for what has amounted to the largest recall in its history, is to have women put the pants on and bend over.
It brings up fantastical connotations of legions of factory workers lining up, bending over, and then a Women’s Bottoms Inspector General lines up and… you get the idea. It also brings up some questions- does Lululemon plan on introducing new quality testing techniques for its luon pants? What kind of methods are being introduced? If there are no new standards that are to be introduced, how does the company plan on doing what I presume is the large-scale testing necessary for evaluating the scope of the issue? What are the industry accepted standards for this type of testing?
So I e-mailed Lululemon to find out. Their response:
We do not have information beyond what was discussed on the call at this time.
I called Sam Poser to see if he had any idea what lululemon was doing, since they could not comment further. His response was that they messed up.
Except he didn’t say “messed.”