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September 26, 2021

Inside the peculiar second-hand market for Lululemon apparel

Most times trends are just that, wispy fads that rocket onto the scene, penetrate public discourse and fade off, unmistakably, like the path “Gangnam Style” is soon sure to take.

But then there are trends that aren’t left alone, that are managed and massaged by some of the business world’s top minds. Suddenly, these trends manufacture staying power by adapting, learning and growing.

Want an example? How about Lululemon, which only opened 12 years ago and is now one of the most profitable retailers in the world?

Certainly, Lululemon arrived on the scene thanks to its signature yoga pants, but how it’s remained is thanks to a unique strategy but also a return policy that might be driving customers nuts.

A recent Wall Street Journal  profile highlights the growth of Lululemon, and how it’s created an atmosphere of scarcity among the apparel it sells. By purposely low-stocking its stores and turning over merchandise every few weeks, Lululemon’s able to create a sort of rabid customer, who tends to jump at the chance to pay full-price for a hoodie for fear it won’t be around much longer.

*Bing: What is the largest retailer in the world?

But while Lululemon has manufactured an air of exclusivity, its frustrating return policy has left some shoppers miffed.

The Vancouver-based retailer accepts returns on no products after 14 days, and only then returns must be in peak condition: unwashed, unworn with original tags attached.

That’s all fine and good, but what’s happened is Lululemon has created a black market, so to speak, for unwanted apparel not returned within the store’s two week window.

According to Business Insider, the secondary market is rife with Lululemon goods, and they’re right.

Take a trip onto eBay or Kijiji or Craigslist and there it is: tons of yoga gear being resold, often at or near the original retail price.

Lululemon takes great pains to create an aura of scarcity among its clothes – selling them fast and turning them over faster – but its also created one of the more prominent retail second markets on the web.

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...