[Your College] x Lululemon: Inside The Apparel Brand’s Campus Takeover
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- Lululemon's college-branded gear launched at the University of Michigan in fall 2021.
- Now, the athletic apparel brand is partnering with other select colleges to drop school-branded gear.
- College retailers report demand for Lululemon gear is high and it sells out fast.
The athletic apparel juggernaut Lululemon Athletica is the new big brand on campus this semester.
Over the last year-plus, the British Colombia-based retailer has partnered with select U.S. colleges to sell exclusive school-branded apparel. It's selling out in hours.
Lululemon launched its first collegiate collab at the University of Michigan (U-M) in fall 2021 at The M Den, the official retailer for the university's athletic department. Every item sold out in hours, Scott Hurst, the store's president and co-owner, told BestColleges.
"We sold what we thought was going to be a whole fall's worth of product in two hours. That's what the customer's reaction was," he said.
The sale was so successful, Lululemon asked if they could expand the product line in his store to a "shop in a shop," Hurst said. Now, the mini Lululemon store occupies about 2,000 square feet of the 30,000 square-foot retail space.
"We've been (in business) for about 50 years now, and there's nothing that's taken the world by storm like Lululemon's product," Hurst said. "They're a fixture."
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Partnerships Expand to Big-Brand Colleges
After its success at Michigan, Lululemon expanded its partnerships to more big-brand colleges this year.
Schools with their branding slapped on Lululemon leggings, tank tops, and sweatshirts now include the University of Texas (UT), Pennsylvania State University, University of Alabama, University of Florida, and Boston College.
Like everything in the Lone Star State, Lululemon went bigger in Texas, said Joelle Houshmand, a buyer for University Co-op, UT's nonprofit bookstore.
"UT is a very large brand … With our launch, we had a bigger volume than Michigan, so this was all a very new, exciting opportunity for both us and Lululemon," she said.
Houshmand explained that she was anticipating lots of excitement about the July 29 Lululemon launch, especially after seeing how many people turned out to buy their gear in Michigan.
However, the response from the UT community exceeded all expectations.
"When we shared the post on our social [media], it was just a co-branded image, just the [Texas] Longhorn and Lululemon's brand image, and I think it ended up being our second most-liked post ever, even [compared to] anything football related," she said.
On the day of the launch, eager customers lined up before 6 a.m. to get a chance to shop for Texas-branded Lululemon products even though students hadn't even officially moved back on campus for the semester, Houshmand said.
"This past summer we had triple-digit days for two months, and people [were] already standing in line early in the summer morning waiting for this," she said.
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Exclusive Colors, Popular Products, And More Men's Gear
Along with university-branded clothing, Lululemon is also developing exclusive apparel in school colors for institutions to sell to fans — which isn't always an easy task.
"Michigan Maize" and University of Texas' "burnt orange" colors will arrive in product launches later this fall, Hurst and Houshmand both told BestColleges.
"Burnt orange [is] a pretty unique color, and it's actually kind of hard to get produced because it's not the most flattering color for apparel, but they've been working really hard to get that made for us … they were really trying to get that color right to the exact Pantone that we have," Houshmand said.
Houshmand expects Texas burnt orange to be in stock Oct. 18. She said University Co-op is getting tons of questions from customers wanting to know when the burnt orange is coming in.
At Michigan, Hurst said women's pants, women's tights, and shorts are the hottest items. At Texas, Houshmand said the belt bag is a favorite.
"The item that sold the quickest was the belt bag, which I don't think is a shock to anyone that's familiar with Lululemon," she said. "We brought in a limited amount of the black [belt bag], and we couldn't even launch the bag [online] because it was sold out in-store. We do have a limited amount of that bag coming in orange with this next delivery."
Both also expressed surprise at how well the men's products were selling.
"We have 50% men's stuff and 50% women's stuff, which is new, and I know that's where Lulu[lemon] wants to go. But that was a surprise for us. It is very popular with men," Hurst said.
Hurst said he doesn't expect the popularity of Lululemon's products among students, regardless of gender, to abate anytime soon.
"[Started] from zero in the early part of 2021 to [now] having the full product line in the store with rebuilt shops inside the store by the end of August last year, and it has been gangbusters ever since."