This summer, a pop-up athletic clothing store, Lululemon, opened on 37th and Walnut streets where vintage clothing store Raxx Vintage West stood before. The location follows a national trend to introduce pop-up Lululemon stores at universities in an attempt by the company to market its products toward local residents and college students.
The pop-up store, which opened on Penn's campus on Aug. 3, is set to close in mid-December, the store's assistant manager, Crystal Sullivan, said.
The same day the store at Penn opened, Harvard University also unveiled its own pop-up Lululemon, which is set to close on Jan. 6, 2019, Julie MacKinnon, floor manager of the store on Harvard’s campus, told the Harvard Crimson. MacKinnon said the pop-ups are an attempt to experiment with the college market. The company has opened a store on Harvard’s campus before, but it was later closed in 2010.
Aside from Penn and Harvard, other schools have Lululemon stores either nearby or on campus. These schools include Stanford University, University of Washington, University of Notre Dame, University of Oklahoma, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and University of California Santa Cruz.
Wharton marketing professor Barbara Kahn, who is working with Lululemon on its marketing strategy, said from a marketing standpoint, pop-up stores can do well with college students and community members who utilize offerings such as the free Sunday morning yoga classes, which Lululemon stores across the U.S. have begun hosting.
"The advantage of a pop-up is that it’s temporary. It’s not a permanent location," Kahn said. "It's not a coincidence that they are near a campus."
Kahn also mentioned that other companies, such as Amazon and Target, also have marketing strategies to attract local residents and college students. For example, Amazon offers a six-month prime membership to college students, Kahn said, and Target is opening stores closer to college campuses.
Mindfulness seems to be a key issue in play. Sullivan said she hopes the store can bring mindfulness and stress relief to the local community, specifically for members of the health care field, such as doctors or nurses, who work long hours at the hospital.
When the store originally opened in the summer, Sullivan said the store saw many local residents come. Since school has started, she said the sales are evenly split between students and residents but did not know the exact revenue numbers for the store.
Sullivan said when the company did market research before opening up the store, the team realized there were only two other boutique fitness studios in the area — Hotbox Yoga West Philly at 35th Street and Lancaster Avenue and Tuck Barre & Yoga at 34th Street and Lancaster Avenue. Sullivan said the pop-up Lululemon “want[s] to bring sweat life” to local West Philadelphia residents who don’t have access to student health centers and gyms.
Sullivan said she was not in a position to comment on why the company decided to open a store specifically at Penn, and the representative from the Lululemon corporate office declined to comment.
“I think that there are a lot of cultural parts of Lululemon that I would have loved in college, such as our vision and goal-setting workshops,” floor manager Anna Connolly said. “Bringing mindfulness to the community I think is really important for stress management and when you have midterms and finals.”
Still, some students don't see it that way. College junior Camila Johanek said the opening of the store indirectly displays the financial gap at Penn.
“It just shows who can afford what and highlights the income gap,” Johanek said, referring to Lululemon's often highly priced leggings which can cost upwards of $148. “There are a lot of implications that come with that, good or bad.”
Lululemon's addition to campus is the first time in recent years that Penn has had an athletic apparel store on its grounds, outside of Philadelphia Runner. Raxx Vintage West stood at the Lululemon location starting in 2017, when it replaced American Apparel.
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