The Skinny on Lululemon’s Success


On Friday afternoon, NPR Marketplace interviewed me about the success of retailer Lululemon Athletica. I was excited to weigh in on the yogawear juggernaut because I’ve been a fan since first discovering them in a Vancouver store while on my book tour in 2005. I’m addicted to the brand and have watched (and contributed to!) their growth ever since. Here’s why:

1) Terrific execution at retail: their philosophy of optimism and energy spiced with a dash of yoga zen pervades the entire experience. No matter the store, they cast their salesforce to engage the local community. They’re helpful, never presumptive, always knowledgeable and fun. (They ask where I practice yoga and even offer free classes in store!)

2) Consistently gorgeous design/color/news that can sustain the hefty pricetag in a category of disposable black leggings: They’ve co-opted the fast fashion code of Zara to activewear, driving frequency of visits and size of purchase (Gotta have that grape pullover with the thumbholes before they sell out!)

3) And as I mentioned in the interview, the brand’s secret Whole Truth: the fabric makes your butt look great. (Try it out yourself.)

Even with expansion, the brand hasn’t lost its chic. More like a Chanel bag or a Tory Burch flat, it’s ‘what to be seen in’ at the cooler gyms in big cities, high end ‘burbs and resorts. Lululemon is a cult of ‘namaste meets fashionista’, with a discrete logo that follows you from yoga mat to sidewalk runway. (Oh, and did I mention it makes your butt look good?)

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The Power of Nudge

I was glad to see the recent findings that declared that exercise and weight loss are just a nudge away. Supposedly, test groups of women who were reminded to exercise by human or computerized phone calls, worked out more often and lost more weight than the control group. Women are used to being nagged or to nagging themselves but these ‘nudges’ were done in a good way. Could positive reinforcement be the answer to the never-ending cry of “I don’t have time to exercise”?

I am a testimony to the success of this carrot vs stick approach. Although I worked out for years with trainers who could teach me good form, I never really cracked the code of exercising out of their sight. But (drumroll), one year ago, I started to work out with a wonderful woman named Colleen Tomko of Frenchtown, NJ and she has made all the difference due to one thing: a constant stream of motivational nudges, courtesy of text messaging. Every day she’ll write me simple texts like, “How was the gym?” (note her expectation that I went) or “H2O? Pushups? How are the food choices?” which make me grab the water, hit the floor and drop the muffin I may have accidentally grabbed.

For the first time in my life of up and down pounds, I’ve lost and kept off 20 pounds and exercised pretty much 5-6 days a week for a year and shockingly kept a positive mental attitude toward the whole process (or “PMA” as Colleen cheerily calls it.) It’s true that when I’ve shared my Colleen messages with others, the constant attagirl’s aren’t for everyone. But marketers who are wondering how to get customers re-engaged, might try the nudge approach—that doesn’t sell or scold—but simply reminds.

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Hop to the Shops


Ever since I caught the marathon bug a little over a year ago, I have become a glutton for gear.  Like a moth to a (rather expensive) flame, so am I to the many running stores that pepper the Manhattan sidewalks—taunting me with window displays of the latest shoe models and GPS devices.

In light of our down in the dumps economy, I’ve been trying to scale back on my “stuff”-buying–i.e. everything other than your basic food/water/shelter/cable.  I have been grudgingly, but dutifully, deleting the thousands of emails from retailers that flood my inbox daily, all promising sales, deals, blowouts…oh my.

However, in a rare moment of weakness I happened to click on an email from one of my very favorite sports apparel stores, JackRabbit Sports, and was struck by the incredible personalization of the letter.  More than simply offering me $5 off my next shoe purchase, and in addition to reminding me of the 10% every returning customer is privy to, it filled me in on exactly why I needed to hop on in asap. 

It gently brought to my attention the exact date that I purchased my last pair of shoes, followed by the well-known (but oft forgot) knowledge that the average lifespan of a running shoe is 400 miles.  And I had passed that.  300 miles ago.  To make it even more irresistible, they listed the exact store where they had my shoe (and size) in stock…and gave me the price after all of my discounts.  Literally all I needed to do was show up, hand over the money, grab the box, and head out. 

If you make it that easy, no one can resist….well, it would take a woman far stronger than I.

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February 1, 2023
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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