What Does Lululemon See When It Looks In Its Mirror?

Photo: Lululemon/MIRROR
Apr 03, 2023

Lululemon last week announced that it absorbed a $443 million impairment charge against its Mirror business and would no longer require members of its paid-membership program, lululemon Studio, to acquire the at-home workout device.

Under the current set-up, launched in October 2022, members pay $39 a month to access thousands of streaming workouts via Mirror, which offers on-demand workouts and virtual personal training streamed through a video-enabled mirror screen. 

The device costs $995, down from $1,500 when lululemon acquired Mirror for $500 million in July 2020. 

Members also receive apparel discounts, free classes at luluemon’s larger “experiential” stores, discounted classes at fitness boutique partners, and early access to in-person events.

Studio content will now also be available through an app in addition to Mirror devices at a lower monthly subscription cost. The Studio program will be relaunched this summer.

Calvin McDonald, lululemon CEO, previously heralded the Mirror acquisition as the centerpiece of the retailer’s “vision to be the experiential brand.” Last week, however, he told analysts on a quarterly call that the at-home fitness space has been “challenging” since the acquisition and Mirror’s holiday results missed plan.

“While members love our content, hardware sales did not match our expectations,” he said. 

On the positive side, lululemon’s free Essentials tier of its loyalty program enrolled more than nine million members since launch, better than expected. Perks under the free program, also available to Studio members, include early access to product drops, no-receipt exchanges and select Studio content accessible through the app. “This demonstrates the significant potential behind this program,” said Mr. McDonald.

Lululemon’s McDonald is confident the “more efficient” paid app-based model can build on the Essentials’ tier’s success in meeting the company’s broader membership goals of building community, increasing engagement and driving incremental spend.

“We view lululemon Studio in the same way we view any innovation,” said Mr. McDonald. “We test, we learn and we evolve as necessary. Although the acquisition has not fully materialized as originally intended, we’re in a much better position in our understanding of the community and our new membership program as a result.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more upsides than downsides to lululemon’s app-based model from a hardware-centric paid one? Was the failure of the Mirror-driven loyalty model solely a hardware issue or does it point to other shortcomings?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
"Relying on hardware sales was risky and I love to see a retailer move on from strategies that don’t work. It shows they are listening and rethinking strategies."
"If there is one lesson to be learned by retailers from the pandemic, it’s agility to pivot, modify your engagement model, and quickly respond to changing consumer habits."
"Like Peloton, Lululemon caught the pandemic bug. Now the Mirror is joining the bikes on the trash heap."

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14 Comments on "What Does Lululemon See When It Looks In Its Mirror?"

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Mark Ryski

Lululemon was right to move away from expensive hardware (and all the manufacturing challenges), and focus on what their loyal customers want. Moving to an app-based approach will expand usage to the many users who are interested in Studio but not willing or able to purchase the expensive hardware. The Mirror-driven program did not produce the outcomes that management expected, but it’s not a failure–it’s a learning. Smart, successful companies know when to kill an idea–regardless of how it may appear from the outside.

Liza Amlani

Lululemon is making a smart strategic move to adjust its model. The app-based model will drive more engagement as non-Mirror users can still opt in. Relying on hardware sales was risky and I love to see a retailer move on from strategies that don’t work. It shows they are listening and rethinking strategies. Other retailers can learn from having a more flexible strategy when it comes to how they go to market. This is innovation.

Bob Amster

An app-based model expands the opportunities for Lululemon to attract subscribers. In many cases, app content from a smartphone can be projected onto a home TV screen (think a large one, like the size of a full mirror) and therefore has its own appeal for those that cannot afford the Mirror or simply don’t want another device in their home. Great idea!

Neil Saunders

Lululemon made the decision to acquire Mirror at a time when almost everyone was working out at home. It likely miscalculated that such a trend would stick, especially for something like yoga which is a very communal activity. Aside from that, Mirror is an expensive, over-engineered solution that doesn’t add all that much value. For all these reasons, sales have been poor. An app-based model is way more flexible and will help Lululemon build up its membership base of both free and paid-for subscribers.

David Weinand

The app-based model is the right one. Even though I have a Peloton, I use the app more often due to its variety of workouts. People are paying $6 for a dozen eggs and $8 for OJ–an expensive piece of workout hardware will not be high on the priority list right now. This model will give them a much greater SAM and, as they say, they can “make it up in volume”… 🙂

Jeff Sward

Mirror was a good idea that was mistaken for a great idea, and those flames were fanned by the dynamics of the pandemic. The streaming of proprietary work-out experiences was always a good idea, but with hardware optional. A $443 million markdown on a $500 million purchase. Ouch. Lululemon joins Peloton and Beachbody in expensive lessons learned during the pandemic.

Karen Wong

This is not surprising given how ubiquitous fitness streaming is today. I’m surprised they haven’t leveraged the interactive features of the mirror more for one-on-one personal training. Streaming fitness content is a dime a dozen now – even Netflix is getting into the game with their latest Nike workout series. Two-way interaction would have been a differentiator early on in the pandemic and it plays right into the demographic that the hardware was catered to.

While the Mirror is the only COVID-19 fitness purchase I made that I don’t regret, I live in a small space and was willing to pay a premium for a mountable device that doubled as a full-length mirror. For most people, it’s an unnecessary perk.

The new benefits for members are a great value-add. My only hope is that they don’t discontinue support for the hardware eventually. 😉

Mel Kleiman

The Mirror was a great idea that became a good idea when the pandemic ended. Lululemon is making the right move by cutting losses while using the investment to expand brand loyalty. It may not recoup all the financial losses, but it will increase brand value. Smart move by management.

Gene Detroyer

Like Peloton, Lululemon caught the pandemic bug. They made the assumption that people would continue to exercise at home post-pandemic, failing to understand their customers. Now the Mirror is joining the bikes on the trash heap. The conclusion of this endeavor really was obvious from day one.

I don’t have the research, but I would speculate that exercise and fitness give those who do it a chance to leave home and not spend another couple of hours inside their four walls. It doesn’t matter if it is the gym or a jog in the countryside. As important as the exercise is, the opportunity for a change of scenery drives the individual’s behavior.

Richard Hernandez

I remember discussing this and, at the time, a lot of us thought this product was in line with lululemon’s customer base. That was then, this is now. The pandemic and tightening of discretionary spending (no matter who the demographic was) did not help at all.

Apple+ and some other options came on the scene without the purchase of a $1,500 piece of equipment. They are smart however, and they will figure out how to make this work.

David Slavick
There is a lot to unpack here. First, you pay for the mirror and then you pay monthly to get workouts. The brand has a paid model and now has introduced a free loyalty program. Brand lovers will put up with almost anything as a brand/loyalty program evolves over time. You’ve got to be extremely careful when introducing a paid program into the brand relationship – and lululemon knew this full well almost 7 years ago when considering introducing the paid model vs. free. They didn’t want “all” customers joining – making it exclusive and actually limiting how many members could pay to join. When they look in the “mirror” they see a mess created by their own hand. Likewise, when you charge for something the value coming back to the member better hit the mark in benefits, access, experiences and more. Plus, you have to chase after renewals. Don’t let the brand you built be negatively impacted by loyalty program designs that cannot be sustained over a long period of time, and don’t charge… Read more »
Ricardo Belmar

If there is one lesson to be learned by retailers form the pandemic, it’s agility, The agility to pivot, modify your engagement model with consumers and quickly respond to changing buying/shopping habits. Lululemon is following this philosophy by recognizing that what worked when they purchased the Mirror, no longer works as consumer fitness habits have changed. In fact, you could say the pendulum has swung the other way on fitness, from home-based to being in gyms and just outside in general. Will it swing back in another year Maybe, maybe not, but the key here is that lululemon is recognizing the change and adapting their business by offering a lower cost tier via an app that doesn’t require hardware. Perhaps the writing was on the wall when Apple introduced Fitness+ for Apple Watch customers (and no specialized fitness hardware required) and then later increased it’s reach by allowing any Apple device user without a watch to use the service. Still no fitness hardware required.

Mark Self

Lululemon is correct in moving away from the mirror. Hindsight is always perfect, and with that in mind mirror was a thing right along with peloton…expensive hardware with content added on a subscription basis = I think I will find something else to do or to buy.

Regarding exercise apps and content in general, I think (in spite of the higher than expected signups) that Lululemon should stay in their lane and focus on making great clothing. But that is easy for me to type, since no one is pressuring me to come up with growth strategies.

Christine Russo

I like the idea of them incorporating AR Fit technology into the mirror to tie it back to their merchandise AND to reduce returns. If that is successful, this can launch the mirror into home design, home dressing closets and rooms and basements. And thinking even bigger, the tech gets sold , white label, to all retailers so now you can use AR to try on any brand and really reduce returns.

"Relying on hardware sales was risky and I love to see a retailer move on from strategies that don’t work. It shows they are listening and rethinking strategies."
"If there is one lesson to be learned by retailers from the pandemic, it’s agility to pivot, modify your engagement model, and quickly respond to changing consumer habits."
"Like Peloton, Lululemon caught the pandemic bug. Now the Mirror is joining the bikes on the trash heap."

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