Seeing through the Lululemon Recall

Officially the stupidest quote on a product recall. “The truth of the matter is the only way you can actually test for the issue is to put the pants on and bend over.” Lululemon Athletica CEO Christine Day on how to detect the see-through snafu revealed in the chain’s $94 yoga pants. (And sorry, but this comment is even worse coming from a female CEO.)

I have been a Lulu fan since first discovering them on a trip to Vancouver for my book tour in 2005. Like every new devotee, I raved about the pants—the fit, the fabric, the magical way they made every woman’s butt look toned. Well, it seems the pants worked a little too well, offering a front row seat to unsuspecting back ends.

With their earnings in free fall and stores in a scramble to pull the transparent Luon pants from the shelves, women are running straight to Athleta and Title IX and with particular glee, back to Target and any of the zillion retailers selling yoga pants without a rear view window for less than half the price. Too many of us lost our shirts and our common sense when we bought into Lulu’s high-priced mantra of Luon. And having been taken, we aren’t about to ‘bend over’ again. Wait, you say it’s just business, Ms. Day? Nope, this is quite personal.

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Macy’s New Shoe Strategy: Stepping up Foot Traffic


Department stores have been outdoing each other with bigger and more extravagant shoe departments. Barney’s recently rehabbed their emporium and Saks floor bears its own zip code. This month Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square opened a new 63,000 square foot shoe floor with 300,000 pairs—stepping up to be the biggest shoe store in the world. A champagne and chocolate bar is located on the floor to celebrate when you find the perfect glass slipper. But what’s really behind the shoe madness?

Listen to the interview here!

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Three Reasons Why JCPenney’s Latest Strategy Won’t “Check Out”

Sorry, but I have to continue my JCPenney rant. I didn’t gloat when they admitted that their strategy to de-coupon the stores was a failure. Or when more top level folks gave up their mission to coolify. But today’s news that CEO Johnson is planning to rid the stores of those pesky cash registers and ‘expensive’ cashiers at checkout just can’t go unnoticed.


Let’s start with checkout. While every retailer likes to brag, “We want to be a destination store,” instead they ought to promise, “We want to be the evacuation store.” Once women have given a retailer their precious time, they want to get the heck out of there as fast as possible. With the exception of the apple store and maybe anthropologie (where we pretend we are adopting a languid, poetic lifestyle!), women want to bolt and get on with their day.


Now it’s true that some mass retailers have taught customers to accept self-checkout. But JCPenney, the store for women who are already doing it all, isn’t WalMart or apple and anthro-anything. And I predict that while someday we may all be asking our mobile phones to talk to a kiosk, we are not all there yet and in this category, we expect more. Here’s why this I predict this initiative will be put in the slow lane within months.


The customer: Just a guess: the largest segment of JCPenney customers are women with a low to low/mid HH income, a more limited education, children to support and a technology repertoire that is more email and facebook than apps or code scanning. The loyal ones are likely older.  Just picture these women being asked to aim, scan, tap and tangle with tech when their kids’s humor is wearing thin or their tired feet are giving out.  At the first hiccup, I see them dropping the merch and heading out the door for good.


The product: I don’t care if I have to pack my own groceries, but clothes and the cute household decorations? Yeah, I’ve suffered through part-time clerks who stuff, wrinkle and ruin my discount finds in Marshall’s, but for the most part, I feel like the cashiers, pretty much all of whom are women, try. Because they’ve been there. What’s so special now about JCP (Who?) if they make you bag your new bought sheets and clothes and kids’ stuff like it’s off the back table of the dollar store. Even they have cashiers.


The experience: For the shoppers who go to Penney’s for a little treat, now the store is taking away one more customer service perk and replacing it with what? Maybe improved customer service that will cost them more because they either have to hire more trained people or spend more money training the ones they have…the ones, whose heads must be spinning by now with the changes that start and stop? We know that eventually, we will all be checking out alone, but for store whose hold on their best customers is so fragile, was this the only way to save 10% of costs?


Before the board allows Mr. Johnson to add another apple-esque idea to a store that doesn’t have apple’s customers, products, staff, environment, juice or core, can someone say it might be time for someone else, as smart as he is, to checkout?

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Harvey Nichols “Walk of Shame”

Upscale UK retailer Harvey Nichols recently launched a stir-causing ad on their YouTube channel, titled “The Walk of Shame,” which we enjoyed and wanted to share.

In the spot, a series of women stumble along in ill-fitting dresses “the morning after the night before” to a delicate piano rendition of “Morning Has Broken.”  They teeter up and down subway stairs, partake in medicinal breakfast sandwiches, and pause mid-stride trying to avoid being ill on a sidewalk.  Although it’s UK-based, it is relatable to any woman who’s ever enjoyed too much holiday cheer (which is most of us) and falls squarely in the “funny-because-it’s-true” category.  The screen fades to black, and the viewer is urged to “Avoid the Walk of Shame this Season” before we cut to a lovely young woman, also heading home in the early morning light, but this time wearing a flattering, high-necked dress that moves with her instead of riding simultaneously down and up.  Finally, we are asked to “Share your #walkofshame.”

The ad has inspired a bit of controversy (which I’m sure HN expected and welcomes).  Some viewers complain larger and more realistic women were chosen for its first half, whereas the actress at the end is a thin, beautiful model.  I found the focus throughout to instead be on the dresses; although the final actress was undeniably pretty, the others were certainly attractive as well … just badly dressed.  The spot is more about beautiful, tailored clothes than body image.

Said Harvey Nichols group press and marketing director Julia Bowe (rather cheekily, as the Brits say), “We know that a fabulous outfit can cover a multitude of sins.”

HN’s message is clear: don’t just dig an old, cheap or ill-fitting cocktail dress out of the back of your closet; come to Harvey Nichols for a new frock and feel confident, beautiful, and well-covered on your “Walk of Shame” … thus making the walk not very “shameful” at all.

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GetGlued In Gap’s Latest Fashion Trends

The social media site GetGlued allows users to check into, rate and share the entertainment sources they use and like best. Show your friends what shows you’re tuning into, what music you’re dancing to, what great book you just read and so much more. What’s more is the site just recently partnered with Gap, their first retail partnership, which will rewards site users who check into the 12 listed fall TV shows with discounts up to 40% off to use in the store. Well if watching TV is going to turn my brain to mush, at least I will look cute in the process?

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Just Ask a Woman Hits the Red Carpet

Mary Lou graces the red carpet in her favorite shoes! Photo: AP

We are very excited to attend tonight’s screening of God Save My Shoes. A while back Mary Lou was interviewed as an expert on why women are drawn to shoes and how marketing contributes to the love affair. The clips we’ve seen are great and feature the shoe greats like Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Walter Steiger along with celebs like Fergie, Kelly Rowland and Dita Von Teese. We will post reviews when they are available. And yes, of course, we are all wearing fabulous shoes to the premiere.

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Do Women Expect The Truth From Beauty Ads? Mary Lou Quinlan In CNN Living

Right on the heels of L’Oreal pulling their latest round of ads depicting  Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington from the UK after accusations of over-airbrushing, CNN set out to determine what level of  truth women expect from beauty advertisements… or whether they expect truth at all. To help them get to the bottom of it, they consulted none other than Just Ask a Woman’s Founder and CEO, Mary Lou Quinlan, who assured them every step in advertising is a deliberate one.

I didn’t mean to shill for the entire beauty industry but someone had to tell the whole truth about beauty ads. While the over the top promises and pictures in the category are cannon fodder for women on a rant, the truth is that the standards governing beauty claims are pretty darn severe. There’s a long list of watchdogs who try to keep brands honest: corporate internal R&D and legal, governmental agencies, the TV network’s standards folks, their competitors who leap on a dime….and the women who decide to buy or not.

I’d like to believe that most of these groups are motivated to do right rather than wrong. And brand managers and their ad agencies have to play the roles of both creative and cop to avoid making the kind of mistake that these ads just made.

The ads with Julia and Christy were what might be called lies of omission. They left out the lines and wrinkles for sure. But worse, they left out the truth of why those two icons are so aspirational for so many women. They are both women with real years of growth, as mothers, as daughters, as businesswomen, as philanthropists, as women whose authenticity is what gives them appeal (though I still wish Julia hadn’t snagged her husband from someone else.) They weren’t as beautiful with experience so totally erased. Whole truth indeed.

To read more about women’s expectations and advertisers’ master plans, check out the full article on CNN Living.

To read more about the newest tricks of the cosmetics industry, check out our take on Sephora’s newest service.

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Like A Fruit Basket, But Better: Sephora Same-Day Delivery

If you’re a fan of makeup superstore Sephora, you probably already know that the store’s newest campaign is that of same-day delivery from their local store. For $15, makeup lovers can have products from around the corner delivered to their doors… or the doors of their friends.

The appeal is obvious: We don’t have to find the time to sneak from our desks to the Sephora store—a timeless, alternate universe of perfume clouds and color palettes. We also don’t have to dampen the fun of makeup shopping by going when we’re just refreshing the basics (sorry, can’t get excited about concealer), or sit at home waiting for our online order to arrive. And when our order does arrive a matter of hours later, it will be via “iconic Mini.” Let us know if you spot it around town!

But with a minimum order of $50 and a delivery fee of $15, same-day orders have to be substantial. Therefore, we leave you with the following question: What’s it worth to you to avoid the perfume lady?

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It’s Not Easy Being Green. Or Honest.

How much weight does the word “organic” hold when it comes your purchasing decisions? Do you place more value—monetary or otherwise—on organic clothing? Food? How about beauty products?

We only ask because 26 cosmetic companies making “organic” products are facing a lawsuit from the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health for using the word without the certifications. The companies (the full list can be found HERE) may be in violation of a California law requiring products carrying the organic label to be at least 70% organic ingredients. Attention, shoppers: Now that you know, would you still buy the products?

If found guilty, the companies involved will have more than just legal problems. First of all, if they’re stripped of the organic label, they’ll be unable to fulfill their female consumers’ Good Intentions. Because how convenient is it that the products you love are also organic, and therefore less damaging to the environment? Organic beauty products make it easy to be green-ish.

Also, women love empathetic companies. They love companies that understand them, that enable them to both save the planet and have a flawless complexion. But if it’s found that any or all of these companies—whose products have been tested by the Center and found wanting—aren’t living up to their claims and are in fact lying to their consumers, said consumers will feel targeted, manipulated, and disinclined to keep buying.

Honesty gains a lot of ground with female consumers, but deceit loses much more. Let’s hope, for the sake of brand loyalists everywhere, that honest trumps organic.

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Can Real Women Finally Sell Dove?

It’s no secret that Just Ask a Woman has been critical about Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty. In fact, we wrote an entire chapter about it in our book, What She’s Not Telling You, Why Women Hide the Whole Truth. Why? While women publicly cheered for the campaign, Dove’s sales slowed and then flatlined. Our conclusion:  Women want to know that when they put their money on the beauty counter they are getting a product backed by science and technology and of course, results. It’s hard to sell ‘Love the Skin You’re In’ .

So I was excited this morning as I was going through my own beauty routine and watching the Today show (before I had to give the TV over to Elmo), to see Dove’s new commercial for VisibleCare Body Wash. The commercial reveals a photo shoot with real women getting close-ups taken by a fashion photographer. Then the women are asked to use the body wash for a week and are brought back to see their close-ups…what do  they find? Close-ups of their skin…before and after shots, and the difference is dramatic.

Dove got it right – they bring us real women which stays true to their brand image but they promise us results, in only a few weeks, backed by technology that is clinically prove to visibly improve skin (“highest concentration of Nutrium Moisture™” – I don’t know what that is but I want it now!) The website provides visual proof and information about the science behind the product.

Women love before and after pictures and we love results. The Whole Truth is that real beauty is on the inside and the outside. I love that Dove is finally focusing their message to what matters most with women and I bet they’ll love what it does to their bottom line.

I just downloaded my $1 off coupon from the website and will be headed to Duane Reade on my way home tonight!

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June 14, 2024
by Mary Lou Quinlan

A look at an early production of WORK


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The God Box Goes Global!

“The God Box” has grown to include an app, audio book, philanthropic venture and solo show performed by Mary Lou across the US. Now The God Box Project goes global to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
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