Lululemon, Taking Stock in Yoga Wear

Last week's market plunge was bad news for many companies. But Vancouver-based Lululemon, which sells high-performance clothing for power yoga, made its market debut — and saw its stock prices soar.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Of course last week was the worst on Wall Street in almost five years. The Dow Jones Industrial average fell nearly 600 points, so traders are probably taking a deep breath this morning. It turns out that deep breaths produced one of the rare bright spots in the stock market last week.

Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Yoga is growing fast in the United States, and the Lululemon Company saw an opportunity - mixing this ancient form of spiritual exercise with modern, high-tech clothing. Vancouver-based Lululemon operates 57 stores around the world, selling high-performance workout gear for sweaty, stretchy power yoga.

On its first day of trading last Friday, the company stocks soared more than 55 percent, even as the overall market was slumping like a downward dog. That comes as no surprise to Bernard Slede, who runs a trade group for yoga teachers and similar professionals called Namasta. He says Lululemon's managed to capitalize on yoga's growth without seeming too mercenary. The company cleverly enlists yoga instructors as a grassroots marketing force.

Mr. BERNARD SLEDE (President, NAMASTA): If the yoga teacher wears it, then as a student you're not going to go wear Target shorts. In that sense Lululemon has been setting the trend in many instances.

HORSLEY: Slede says that soft, almost yogic selling technique is important because many participants look on the yoga studio as a sanctuary from the capitalist world outside.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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