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INTERNET RETAILING AWARDS 2014 lululemon athletica on arriving in the UK

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We’re asking companies shortlisted in the Internet Retailing Awards 2014 to tell us about themselves. Today Paul Zaengle, SVP of global digital commerce at lululemon athletica tells us about its move into the UK market. The Canadian yogawear business is shortlisted for the Market Entry Award.

Internet Retailing: What do you sell, and how do you sell it?

Paul Zaengle, SVP of global digital commerce at lululemon athletica: lululemon athletica is a designer and retailer of technical athletic apparel. Our yoga-inspired apparel is marketed under the lululemon athletica and ivivva brand names. Our products are designed to offer performance, fit and comfort while incorporating both function and beautiful style. We offer a comprehensive line of apparel and accessories designed for athletic pursuits such as yoga, running, and general fitness.

As of June 2014, lululemon athletica apparel was principally sold through 255 stores that are located in Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand and the United Kingdom. We also sell our products through showrooms (in the United States, China, Germany, Netherlands and Singapore), strategic sales partners (select yoga and fitness studios), and e-commerce (we operate local sites in the US, Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia, with fulfillment to 83 countries). Our vertical retail strategy allows us to interact more directly with and gain feedback from our guests, while providing us with greater control of our brand.

IR: How long have you been in business, and how has your approach to retail changed or developed over that time, and particularly since the advent of digital retailing?

PZ: lululemon athletica was founded in 1998 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. We differentiate lululemon athletica through an innovative, community-based approach to building brand awareness. In 2009, we launched our retail website, which has allowed us to provide a distinctive online shopping experience and extend our reach to communities where we do not have a physical store or showroom. Over the past two years, we’ve undertaken significant efforts to integrate our channels, which includes technology in stores, revamping our incentive structure for store educators, and re-aligning our organizational structure. The results have been very positive, and we have many more integration initiatives planned.

IR: Who are your customers, and how has ecommerce enabled you to get to know them better?

PZ: We know our guests are women and men who lead busy, active, healthy lives. They are up to many sweaty pursuits, including yoga, running, cycling and cross-fit. Their busy lifestyle means they value functional fashion and are looking for technically beautiful clothing that takes them from studio to street and back again.

Ecommerce has given us another way to elevate our guest experience and engage with our guests – they can give us feedback through online product reviews, and we value their time by allowing them to shop and connect with us when and where it is most convenient for them. Our digital focus isn’t just about ecommerce; it extends to our blog and social channels where we regularly engage with our guests about what they’re up to. In 2013, we launched, an ideation forum where guests can share their ideas directly with our design and production team to innovate, inspire and even co-create our future products. Having said that, we remain grounded in our grass-roots community strategy, and know that our best connection to our guests will always come from our stores, and the authentic relationships we build with them in each community.

IR: What pleases you about being shortlisted for the Market Entry Award? What does it recognize about your business that you’re proud of?

PZ: We’re pleased to be recognized for our entry into Europe; we just opened our first European store in April 2014 in London, and we have plans to open another London store by the end of 2014. It also recognizes the importance of ecommerce as a market entry tool, which allows us to learn from our guests – where they come from, and what products they love most.We have big plans in Europe and Asia, and ecommerce will continue to fuel that growth and additional global expansion.

IR: What’s your plan for the future – and what will you be focusing on doing even better?

PZ: In addition to international expansion, we are focusing on growing our men’s business, continuing to expand and innovate our product categories and developing our youth brand, ivivva.

Winners in the Internet Retailing Awards 2014 will be named at the event party, to be held on June 26 at One Mayfair. Find out more about the Internet Retailing Awards here, and about getting tickets here.

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