No laughs for Lululemon

Attempt to humorously personalize Buffalo-area store lands closer to mockery


For a store that sells athletic gear (if see-through yoga pants can be called “athletic”), Lululemon doesn’t seem to understand much about sports.

The company, which regularly works to cater their stores to the local area, installed a mosaic on the floor of their store in Walden Galleria, which referenced two historical embarrassments for Buffalo’s sports teams.

The mosaic, which was installed in July but went viral on social media this past week, spells out “Wide Right” and “No Goal,” referencing the Bills’ missed field goal in the 1991 Super Bowl and the Sabres’ loss in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.

Lululemon’s intentions appear wholesome – trying to customize their stores to the area and show off their knowledge of the local history is a nice touch – but somewhere along the way the company’s plan went awry and they ended up insulting an entire city.

Maybe Buffalo sports fans are a little more sensitive than the average football fanatic. But this city has earned the right to cry foul. Losing four consecutive Super Bowls has left Buffalo without any championship rings or bragging rights, so fans will take victory where they can – even if the win comes against a corporation rather than, say, the New England Patriots.

Maybe if the Bills had gone on to win a Super Bowl, or if the Sabres weren’t in the midst of a seemingly endless rebuilding stage, it’d be possible to laugh along with Lululemon. But when that “wide right” signifies the moment the Bills came the closest to becoming champions – and then didn’t – laughter isn’t a natural reaction.

Though some shoppers saw the humor in the phrases and considered the mosaic representative of fans’ loyalty, they were undoubtedly in the minority. The reaction on social media once the image went viral made this all too apparent to the company, which, to its credit, quickly apologized and covered up the mosaic. Store manager Pamela Palmieri tried to explain their intentions, calling the mosaic a “rally cry,” but Buffalo sports fans nonetheless called for a boycott of the store.

Admittedly, this is ultimately little more than yet another gaffe from Lululemon. They’ve already drawn public ire for their comments regarding plus-size women and their floor plans that seem to shun larger-size clothing – and their potential buyers – to back corners of the store.

Lululemon’s tormented public relations don’t end there. Former employees took to the Internet with tales of the company’s weird, cult-like environment and the company’s founder and former chairman resigned in disgrace after the public reacted – not surprisingly – with fury when he claimed that the company’s pants “don’t work for some women’s bodies” in a televised interview.

What is just one more addition to Lululemon’s growing list of mistakes is much more to offended Buffalo residents. At the very least, it’s encouraging that the company listened to shoppers’ complaints, even if their quick reaction was meant to curtail financial losses rather than soothing hurt feelings.

In all of these displays of poor judgment, the public was right there to call the company out and ensure that Lululemon’s questionable ethics and tone-deaf statements didn’t fly under the radar. Buffalo shoppers were equally vigilant, and in doing so, made it clear to the company that while sports fans here may bemoan their team’s records and even reference the failings of the past, it’s not fodder for corporate manipulation.