Christine Day Steps Down As Lululemon CEO

Christine Day, chief executive officer of Lululemon Athletica Inc., speaks to the media following an event at the Toronto Reg
Christine Day, chief executive officer of Lululemon Athletica Inc., speaks to the media following an event at the Toronto Region Board of Trade in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Friday, on Feb. 15, 2013. Lululemon Athletica Inc., an athletic clothing retailer, produces fitness pants, shorts, tops and jackets for yoga, dance, running, and general fitness. Photographer: Aaron Harris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Lululemon chief executive officer Christine Day is stepping down after five and a half years at the helm of the international apparel retailer famous for its yoga wear, the company announced in a release Monday.

On a conference call with analysts, Day declined to explain the specific reason for her departure, but said the decision was hers and that she had been trying to find the best time to exit.

"This was a personal decision of mine," Day said on the call. "Look, there's never a perfect time to leave a company that you love. ... As the company embarks on that next 10-year vision, the timing's right to bring in the next person to lead."

Day's decision comes less than three months after the Lululemon's recall of black luon yoga pants after complaints that the garments had an "unacceptable level of sheerness." The company's chief product officer, Sheree Waterson, announced her departure from the company amidst the fallout.

In a Q&A Lululemon posted to its website, the company reiterated several times that the decision to step down was Day's alone and had nothing to do with the fabric problems that prompted the costly luon pants recall.

"The company has recovered from the setback around the black luon and Christine is acting on her deep conviction that it is time to transition to a new CEO to lead the company through its next phase of growth," the Q&A said. Last week, Lululemon announced that the revamped pants would finally return to store shelves.

Day will stay on as CEO until the Lululemon board of directors can find a suitable replacement. She told the board of her decision to step down last Friday, and the search committee for a new CEO was formed over the weekend. She also confirmed on the call with analysts that she will not stay on as a member of Lululemon's board, but she will help manage the leadership transition.

Day joined Lululemon in 2008 after a 20-year run at Starbucks, where she held a post at the top of the coffee giant's Asia Pacific group. Her time as chief of Lululemon saw increased attention from both customers and investors: Day guided the company to unprecedented growth by bringing the yoga brand to the mass market and expanding across the globe.

Under Day, Lululemon forged fanatical brand loyalty by using a "scarcity model," keeping certain items rare in order to maintain an aura of exclusivity. The company shies away from discounts and sells an overwhelming majority of its wares -- 95 percent, according to chief financial officer John Currie -- at full price to help maintain that perception.

"Our guest knows that there's a limited supply, and it creates these fanatical shoppers," Day told The Wall Street Journal last year.

In recent months, some of Lululemon's biggest fans have turned on Day, accusing her of ruining their favorite brand, according to a report from Business Insider.

"Day has ruined everything special about lululemon. The bullet proof quality, the fit, the femininity, the lululemoness of the product," Carolyn Beauchesne, known as the "Lululemon Addict," wrote on her popular fan blog. "She is a one-trick pony who grew the company through expansion."

Day told analysts that she's not yet focused on the next step in her career. First, she has to finish her watch at Lululemon.

"I'm here for a while," she said, "and I will be showing up to work on Monday, business as usual."



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