Backstory to lululemon's athleisure success in the Middle East
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Backstory to lululemon’s athleisure success in the Middle East

Backstory to lululemon’s athleisure success in the Middle East

Athleisure brand lululemon has experienced impressive double-digit growth in the Middle East and its robust performance in the region is attributed to its successful partnership with Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle, shares Fahed Ghanim

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Majid Al FUttaim Lifestyle CEO shares how lululemon has made its mark in the Middle East image Supplied

Athleisure brand lululemon recently opened its 20th store in the Middle East in Dubai’s vibrant urban lifestyle destination, City Walk.

The recently launched immersive lululemon studio marks the first-of-its-kind in the region for the brand. We caught up with Fahed Ghanim, CEO of Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle, to find out more about the Canadian brand’s presence in the region, key trends driving its popularity and other retail developments that will dominate the year. Here are excerpts from the chat.

lululemon has strategically expanded its footprint in the region. Tell us more about how this partnership has strengthened and what are the factors driving its popularity in the Middle East.

In 2015, Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle embarked on a transformative journey with lululemon, bringing the global athletic apparel leader to the Middle East with one store in Dubai (the number has now gone up to eight). Today, we have 20 stores across the GCC, with the latest openings including a store in City Walk and a shop-in-shop in our THAT Concept Store, a testament to the brand’s phenomenal success in the region.

This substantial growth can be attributed to several key factors. First and foremost is our deep understanding and integration into the regional fitness culture. The Middle East has witnessed a surging interest in health and wellness, and lululemon’s commitment to fostering a community-driven approach has resonated deeply with the local audience. The brand’s emphasis on authentic connections with the #thesweatlife community has played a crucial role in establishing it as a household name in the region.

Over the last three years, lululemon has experienced impressive growth in the Middle East, showcasing the brand’s popularity and its ability to meet the needs of a dynamic and health-conscious consumer base. The commitment of both Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle and lululemon to redefine the local athletic apparel landscape is evident in the brand’s transformative products and its unique community-led approach.

An integral part of this success story is the extensive community engagement initiatives we have implemented for lululemon, hosting over 100 community events throughout the region last year alone and bringing together more than 6,000 fitness enthusiasts. This not only strengthens the brand’s connection with the local community but also aligns with the broader mission of promoting physical, mental, and social well-being.

lululemon’s product innovation, exemplified by the popularity of the Align Pant with regional sales exceeding half a million units annually, showcases its ability to offer a comprehensive head-to-toe solution in performance apparel and footwear. This commitment to excellence, combined with Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle’s strategic efforts, has propelled lululemon into a position of prominence within the GCC’s athletic apparel market.

Tell us how MAF Lifestyle has evolved the customer experience when it comes to the brand across its stores.

Our ongoing mission for Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle is to prioritise customer experience and centricity across all our brands. Since our journey with lululemon began, this commitment has only strengthened, and the recent opening of our 20th store at City Walk is a testament to this dedication.

The immersive lululemon studio at our City Walk marks the first of its kind in the region. This space is not just a retail area, it’s a dynamic hub for various sweat classes. We believe in going beyond traditional retail by offering an engaging environment where fitness enthusiasts can come together, creating a community-driven wellness destination.

Our strategic move to introduce a lululemon shop-in-shop at THAT Concept Store in Mall of the Emirates is another endeavour to enhance the customer experience. Taking over the ground floor of the store, this elevated shop-in-shop seamlessly integrates lululemon’s luxury sportswear collections with THAT’s premium offerings. The collaboration creates a perfect synergy, catering to customers who seek a blend of performance, fashion, and formal wear apparel.

These initiatives underline our commitment to providing a holistic and inclusive shopping experience. We understand the evolving expectations of our customers, particularly in the fitness-conscious Middle East region and we continue to create a dynamic retail environment that resonates with our customer’s lifestyles and values.

How does Majid Al Futtaim Lifestyle develop the brands it partners with?

First and foremost, our team engages in a deep understanding of the core values of the brand we are partnering with. In the case of lululemon, we recognise and embrace their commitment to well-being, community, and authenticity. By aligning ourselves with these fundamental principles, we can create an environment that not only showcases lululemon’s products but also embodies the essence of the brand.

Simultaneously, we are mindful of the diverse and dynamic local identities within the region. We recognise the importance of weaving these unique cultural elements into the fabric of the brand experience. This involves a thoughtful localisation strategy that respects and resonates with the preferences and values of the local community.

The goal is to create spaces and experiences that feel familiar and relatable to our customers while staying true to the global brand identity. Remaining authentic is a cornerstone of our approach. It’s not about imposing a brand onto a market; instead, it’s about allowing the brand to organically integrate into the local context.

For lululemon, this authenticity shines through in our commitment to fostering a community-led approach.

Athleisure has been gaining ground in the retail segment. Tell us about this trend and what your predictions for the year are.

The athleisure trend has undeniably become a dominant force in the retail segment both regionally and globally. Several factors contribute to its popularity, one significant driver is the growing emphasis on health and wellness. As individuals adopt more active lifestyles, the demand for functional yet fashionable activewear has surged. Athleisure caters to this demand by offering performance-oriented apparel that is also aesthetically pleasing. lululemon has played a significant role in driving and embodying the athleisure trend.

Predictions for the year and beyond suggest that athleisure will continue to dominate the retail landscape. As the boundary between workwear and casualwear continues to blur, athleisure is expected to remain a staple in wardrobes. The focus on sustainability and eco-friendly materials in activewear is likely to continue its momentum, aligning with the broader industry shift towards more responsible fashion.

What are some key trends you are seeing when it comes to purchasing patterns, online purchases etc?

The integration of online and offline channels into omnichannel strategies is becoming crucial, as consumers expect a seamless shopping experience across various platforms. Social commerce is gaining prominence, with consumers not only discovering products on social media but also making direct purchases through integrated shopping features. Personalisation is also a key focus, with consumers valuing tailored recommendations and personalised content.

Sustainability concerns continue to influence purchasing decisions, suggesting a growing awareness and prioritisation of sustainability in consumer choices. Retailers and brands need to align with these values and ensure we are integrating more conscious choices into our offerings.

When shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, consumers are seeking in-store experiences which go beyond transactions. The success of these experiences, however, lies in their ability to stay aligned with customer needs, ensuring that each encounter goes beyond novelty and adds genuine value to the shopping journey.

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