Lululemon: ‘A Sheer Debacle in Risk Management’ Stanford Study

Lululemon: ‘A Sheer Debacle in Risk Management’ Stanford Study

by ManiJune 20, 2014, 12:05 pm

A Stanford study notes despite companies disclosing risk factors in their SEC filings, there is often a disconnect between identifying and managing the risks

Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL) struggled to respond to anticipated product quality issues and contain the fallout on social media, notes a recent Stanford University (Larcker, David F. and Larcker, Sarah M. and Tayan, Brian, Lululemon: A Sheer Debacle in Risk Management (June 17, 2014).

In a research note dated June 17, 2014, authored by David Larcker, Sarah Larcker and Brian Tayan of Stanford, with the title: “Lululemon: A Sheer Debacle in Risk Management”, they point out that despite anticipating the risks, companies such as Lululemon are ill-prepared to manage them when they materialize.

Lululemon’s anticipated risks in time


As reported earlier, Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL) is still facing problems in attracting customers because of the major PR fiasco in 2013.

According to the research note, the Canadian yoga pants retailer was cognizant of the risks facing its operations. For instance, in its form 10K filed previous year with the SEC, the retailer warned of its reliance on a limited number of suppliers. Moreover, the company also knew that the supply chain issues could disrupt its operations. For instance, it noted: “if defects in the manufacture of our products are not discovered until after such products are purchased by our guests, our guests could lose confidence in the technical attributes of our products and our results of operations could suffer and our business could be harmed”.

Similarly the retailer also recognized the importance of its brand to its overall success, as well as the role that social media played in supporting the brand, when it remarked: “We rely on social media, as one of our marketing strategies….. Our brand could be adversely affected, if we fail to achieve these objectives or if our public image or reputation were to be tarnished by negative publicity”.

However, the Stanford study points out that despite having identified these risks in advance, Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL) struggled to respond to anticipated product quality issues and contain the fallout on social media.

Ill-prepared to manage risks

The study highlights a number of miscues such as Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL)’s handling of the Luon recall, quality issues and related reputational damage.

Providing specific instances, the study highlights that in recalling the pants, the retailer blamed its supplier for not meeting ‘technical specifications’, while the CEO Christine Day subsequently clarified that the problem was not due to production, but to inadequate testing.

The study also wonders how the retailer’s Chairman Chip Wilson could sell $50 million in Lululemon Athletica inc. (NASDAQ:LULU) (TSE:LLL) stock through prearranged 10b5-1 trading plans just four days before Christine Day announced her resignation as CEO.

Providing more insight into the poor handling of risks, the study notes the retailer’s chairman insensitively remarked in a television interview that the problem lay with customers rather than the product.

The Stanford study also draws attention to the National Association of Corporate Directors (2014)’s observation that ‘risk’ ranks third on the list of topics that boards spend the most time discussing, after strategy and financial reporting.

As a closing remark, the study poses a question as to how senior management and members of board of directors can make sure that a company has a reliable way to track and respond to strategic risks.



About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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