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Former Burton CEO makes Lululemon debut

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  • Laurent Potdevin - Shop-eat-surf file photo

Former Burton CEO Laurent Potdevin debuted this morning in his first earnings conference call in his new job at Lululemon Athletica.

Laurent started as CEO at the Vancouver-based athletic company on Jan. 20.

Laurent arrives at a challenging time for the closely watched and publicly traded Lululemon. The company is trying to regain its halo after several stumbles last year, including producing exercise pants that were too sheer and having founder and former CEO Chip Wilson say publicly that larger women’s bodies weren’t made for the company’s yoga pants.

Those comments got picked up around the world, created an online firestorm, and created lots of fodder for late night television comedians.

Laurent used the word “humility” several times in his comments during the call, saying the company has reflected on its stumbles and is learning from them.

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One way to communicate that humility is in the guest experience in stores, and to send the message during those interactions that Lululemon is inclusive, he said during the call.

In addition to learning from the past, Laurent said the company is also focused on the future.

That future includes investing in its product engine, accelerating its global expansion and returning to being disruptive in the athletic category by creating product that is technical, functional and beautiful.

He also plans to boost PR and communication strategies, and amplify the grassroots marketing the company does.

One thing Laurent discovered is that during the PR fiascos last year, the company did not participate in those discussions at all, even though the company was making negative headlines every other week.

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“We have been voiceless for too long,” Laurent said.

Varied background

Before coming to Lululemon, Laurent was president of Toms Shoes beginning in May 2011. Before that, he worked at Burton from 1995 to 2010, including as CEO. Laurent also has experience in the luxury sector, having worked at Louis Vuitton and LVMH.

At Lululemon, his annual base salary is $900,000 and he is eligible to receive a target performance bonus of 150% of his base salary if goals are met.

He received a $200,000 signing bonus and a retention bonus of $1.6 million. Lululemon also granted him $2 million worth of restricted shares of the company’s stock that will vest over the course of three years, according to Lululemon documents filed with the SEC.

Soft traffic trends

In the fourth quarter, Lululemon’s same store sales fell 2%. Total comparable sales, including comparable stores and e-commerce, rose 4%.

The company expects Q1 total comparable sales to be flat and CFO John Currie said it has not seen traffic rebounding. However, the company expects traffic trends to improve as the year progresses.


 

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