Recently, I experienced first-hand what people are calling the Cult of Lulu. This past weekend, I attended Lululemon‘s 2012 Warehouse Sale in Ottawa, where they were holding a massive liquidation of epic proportions. Prices were slashed from floor to ceiling–bags on sale for $39 from $118, and their signature yoga pants on sale for almost half off. “Overstock” from last season was marked down to as low as $4, but this isn’t really the impressive part (read on for the fun). I tell ya, the hype is real–and if I’m not enough to convince you, the thousands of Lulu enthusiasts who braved the bigger-than-Boxing-Day crowds will have something to say about it.
The Ottawa CE Centre was seemingly well-equipped to host this event. For someone pretty horrible at estimating, I’d say you could fit a hockey rink in this arena. The room was split in two–half for the line to get in, and the other half for the merchandise and the actual shopping. Weee! Although the actual sale began at 9 AM, the CE Centre doors opened bright and early at 7 AM that Friday morning.
My sister, her best friend, and I arrived at around 650 AM that morning. “It’s either going to be holy crap, there’s no one here, or omg, look at this line up!” her friend quipped en route. Sure enough, oh em geeeee. Well-before the centre doors even opened, a long and potentially discouraging lineup was already snaking its way down and around the edge of the parking lot–pretty impressive, considering the -25 degree weather. Lulu fans are hardcore.
When the doors finally opened–at 7, as promised–near-frost bitten shoppers made their way into the room to the right. We were greeted by peppy Lulu staff volunteers, who literally cheered us on for our sheer will to score some sales. The waiting room was well-divided with railings and easily accommodated the flow of traffic. To give you an idea of the crowds, the girl next to me on the other side of the railing held a coat check tag for number 485. Simply incredible, since we were only row 3 and the lines kept snaking around.
There was even a DJ pumping out the club beats and an exercise demonstration taking place on the nearby stage. Oh em gee.
At my sister’s bidding, the two of us entered the sales floor with a game plan–she’d tackle the tops, and I’d head for the bottoms. Since we’re both the same size, it seemed like a good strategy. Each item’s price was colour-coded and decipherable via poster board legends taped high on the walls. The “most” you’d pay for an item on the first day was about $99 pre-taxes, and the least expensive items were sitting at about $4. Day 1 of the three-day sale would have the first round of price drops, with the sales getting progressively better through days 2 and 3. However, the gamble on sizes and remaining stock being a factor, my sister and I didn’t hesitate to go early on the first day.
Immediately I headed for the pants I knew and loved–Astros and Astro Crops, and some Groove Pants for my sister. I decided to grab first, and check prices later. The pants were a reasonable deal–about half off the original price, so if you’re a fan of the brand, it was worth it to grab a pair or two. The tops were only about 10 dollars off, not “liquidation” prices by any means, but still a good bet if you’re brand-loyal. The bags were by far the best deal–on sale for $39 from $118. It was crazier than Boxing Day! I eyed the tables hesitantly. There were so many hands grabbing, bags flying, heaps and heaps of clothing going by in overstuffed arms. Do I dare brave the madness?
Initially, the sales floor held an abundance of sizes. Anyone between sizes 2 and 12 could find some decent swag, as the staff kept restocking throughout the day. I was able to find some of those infamous Astros amid the Still Pants, sweat pants, and other nondescript Luon pants. My sister, who was on the hunt for some fantastic tank tops, assured me that the selection of colours was so-so, although she was able to find a purple and a grey tank top in her size.
I had what I felt was the best catch of the day–a gorgeous black Audrey coat in a size 4, hidden somewhere between the racks of Luon pants. I should have been frantically grabbing pants by the armful, yet I was, at that point, taking my time to scan the tags and sample the fabric of items as I browsed, quite calmly, as I recall. Then, there it was–that beautiful black coat, shoved in next to two other zip-up coats on the pants rack. I noticed the buttons on the Audrey coat first, and without thinking, I took it off the rack to examine it further without bothering to examine the other two coats. Immediately, a pair of hands on the other side of the rack reached up and snatched those two other zip-up coats; you snooze, you lose. Still, I had that amazing Audrey coat still in hand, and was I happy. It’s wind and water resistant in addition to being stylish, so it just might double as a to-from coat for my walks to the gym in the Fall and early Spring. Great buy.
After nearly 5 hours at the CE Centre, we’d wrapped up most of our shopping. Trusting in my size, I didn’t bother to try anything on, although all sales were final. My sister ended up buying three pairs of pants, two tops, two jackets for a co-worker, and a bag. Incredible! The wait for the cashes was considerable, even though I have to give the Lulu team props for keeping at least 18 registers open. As we waited in line for a good 45 minutes, the temptation to grab a few last-minute items was almost overwhelming. I barely noticed that we’d gone nearly half the day without having anything for lunch, and we all know my appetite. I exited the CE Centre a happy, but tired, customer.
And now for what I consider the amazing part–the seemingly never-ending lineups! As we headed out to the car, the hordes continued to arrive. I peaked into the waiting area to see how long the wait would be; the lineups were longer than ever! Turns out, many people had taken the day off from work to brave the sale, and many would return the following days to snatch up any additional savings (ahem *my sister*). While you can definitely count me as a fan, I’m still amazed by the level of brand-loyalty being displayed by these Lulu fans. This was hardcore shopping at its best.
As for next year’s sale? I’d like to think that I’ll sit it out, but who knows. When it comes to saving $50 on a pair of crops that I use 5 days out of the week, it might be worth it. Just don’t think about it in terms of what money you could be making had you gone to work…*wink*
Holler back: Did you hit up the Lululemon sale? If so, did you find the wait worth your while? If you weren’t able to make it, share your thoughts on the “Cult of Lulu.” Are you a fan, or do you find the brand is over-hyped?
Talk to you soon,
(Photo: lululemon athletica)