What Happened: Lululemon is celebrating its 10th year in Mainland China, as well as opening a staggering 100 stores in the country. Its journey has been lucrative. On May 9, the Canadian athleisure brand launched its “Worn By Us” campaign to commemorate its community of ambassadors in China and around the world. Featuring athletes like British boxer Michele Aboro, Shanghai-based triathlete Peter Wolkowicz and F1 driver Zhou Guanyu — as well as celebrities such as American singer Amber Liu, Hong Kong actress Celina Jade, and mainland actress Wang Zixuan — the campaign highlights a diverse host of faces and their respective stories.
The Jing Take: Lululemon has been one of the rare brands to see success in spite of China’s pandemic lockdowns over recent years. The yoga brand posted record numbers for the fiscal year 2022, with net revenue at $8.1 billion — an increase of more than 30 percent from 2021. Its revenue in mainland China alone soared nearly 70 percent year on year.
This was largely thanks to China’s collective turn towards wellness and the brand’s keen localization strategy and strong community building. For instance, the company held a month-long World Mental Health Day campaign, which included in-person activities, and introduced a digital well-being space on WeChat.
The campaign was hailed as a success among the brand’s largely millennial and Gen Z clientele in China, as it spoke to the generations’ sense of exhaustion — something that many younger consumers have discussed on social media against the backdrop of China’s “996” work culture. This burnout has given way to new movements such as “lying flat,” and “let it rot,” as well as slowed-down lifestyles such as greater self-care and the “simplified life.”
“We have a solid foundation in the region across our brick-and-mortar and digital channels and are supported by exceptional talent on which we continue to build,” Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald said on the Q4 2022 earnings call earlier this year. “It’s clear our growth strategies are on track, and we remain early in our journey across our international markets.”
While Lululemon’s growth in China appears robust, analysts are also warning of potential boycotts of Canadian brands in China given the recent diplomatic row between the two nations. On May 8, Canada expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei over allegations of being involved in an attempt to intimidate a Canadian politician, which China reciprocated by declaring Canadian diplomat Jennifer Lynn Lalonde “persona non grata” the following day.
Deteriorating relations between the two countries could spell trouble ahead for Canadian brands such as Lululemon, Canada Goose and others that have expanded rapidly into the Chinese market over recent years.
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.