Source: iStock | FinkAvenue
Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald is vigorously defending the firing of two employees who tried to intervene during a theft at an Atlanta store.
“In this particular case, we have a zero-tolerance policy that we train our educators [associates] on around engaging during a theft. Why? Because we put the safety of our team and of our guests front and center,” Mr. McDonald told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.” “It’s only merchandise.”
Cellphone footage shows two men wearing hooded sweatshirts grabbing high-priced athletic wear from tables and displays. The employees were seen engaging with and following the robbers outside the store, yelling “get out” repeatedly.
The employees called the local police, who later tracked down and charged the thieves with felony robbery.
Mr. McDonald said the associates “knowingly broke the policy,” including following the thieves out of the store. “They’re trained to step back, let the theft occur, know that there’s technology and there’s cameras and we’re working with law enforcement,” he said.
Store associates or security staff getting injured or killed during attempts to intervene in robberies have become familiar news stories, including a recent stabbing of an employee at a Chicago Target and an associate shot to death at a Home Depot in California.
“We take that policy seriously because we have had instances — and we have seen with other retailers, instances — where employees step in and are hurt, or worse, killed. And the policy is to protect them,” Mr. McDonald said.
The two employees, Jennifer Ferguson and Rachel Rogers, told local news outlet 1 Alive that Lululemon fired them without severance for calling the police. Lululemon said employees are able and instructed to call 911 when needed. The associates were aware of the policy against engaging looters.
“I suppose Lululemon has a ‘woke’ store policy of offering the smash and grabbers a free gift wrap?” one person tweeted with the hashtag #BoycottLululemon.
The Lululemon incident comes as lawmakers in California are attempting to pass a bill that would ban retail staff from stopping thieves stealing from their stores.