Lululemon

CHICAGO — From in-store yoga to HIIT classes, Lululemon is taking sweat to the next level with the opening of its first “experiential” store on Thursday in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood at 944 West North Avenue.

Spanning 20,000 square feet and two floors, it’s Lululemon’s largest store to date. It also features the brand’s first café, called “Fuel Space.”

“This store is kind of 20 years in the making. Lululemon has always been a community-based kind of experiential brand before experiential was even a thing. From in-store yoga classes to in-store run classes,” said Celeste Burgoyne, executive vice president, Americas and global guest innovation at Lululemon, on Wednesday morning, before a guided tour of the store. “Experiences really are at the heart of where Lululemon has been.”

When asked whether there are plans to open more stores like Lincoln Park, Burgoyne said the brand is in the “testing and learning” phase.

“We’re really blowing out our experiences in a beautiful way so as we get into sweat, meditation and fuel, we’re really excited about what we’re going to learn and what the guests tell us about the experience,” Burgoyne said.

“We do think in the future there is a possibility this type of experience could grow to 10 percent of our store fleet. But we’re really not focused on that — we’re really focused on testing and learning in Lincoln Park.”

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The new Chicago store’s yoga studio.  Courtesy

The timing seemed right for the store opening, she said.

“Guests in general are looking for more than transactional experiences from brands. We know we’re uniquely qualified to deliver that in even a bigger way,” she said. “Community has been such a core part of our experiences since we started 20 years ago, it’s really now just doubling down on that.”

Designed by the Chicago-based architecture firm 555 International, the loft-like store, situated at the corner of North Avenue and North Sheffield Avenue and whose retail neighbors include Sephora, J. Crew and Gap, features two “sweat” studios offering six to 10 classes a day — everything from “Power Yoga” to “Strength for Runners,” a meditation room and a space for community workshops and networking events. The store has partnered with 45 local ambassadors — nine times more than its other stores, who will be instrumental in hosting workshops on topics like fitness, mindfulness and nutrition.

Immediately upon entering the store’s glass doors, one is greeted with a group of mannequins wearing the brand’s men’s and women’s workout gear and bags, in colors ranging from black and gray to coral, white and light blue.

Modern yet homey, the industrial-inspired space features exposed structural steel beams, oversized windows and black pendant and track lighting. Massive skylights, built for the store, provide natural sunlight. The interior features reclaimed oak wood floors and existing concrete floors, while the dominant colors are black, white and gray with pops of red. Comfortable seating — from sofa-inspired overstuffed chairs to sectionals — is abundant, rendered in cotton, canvas and suede, and in muted colors like brown, beige, gray and blue. Throw pillows and blankets lend a cozy accent.

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The store’s pant wall in women’s. 

The first floor is devoted to women’s — featuring shorts, a redesigned pants wall, with mannequins situated lower to the ground so that consumers can touch the fabric and twirl the mannequins to see the product from all angles, the street-inspired “lab” collection and bra department.

The “community hub,” which spotlights local partnerships in a pop-up-like setting, is toward the back on the ground floor. For the opening, Chicago-based florist Flowers For Dreams has a station where shoppers can create their own fresh flower bouquet.

In addition to men’s, the workout studios, meditation room and café are on the second floor. There are also men’s and women’s locker rooms — replete with showers, towels and ample changing room. Near the locker rooms, there’s a station selling the brand’s new beauty products, “Selfcare.”

The men’s category is a big push for the brand, as Burgoyne stressed “we have a big goal to double our men’s business by 2023 and this men’s assortment really is the most full expression you’ll see in any physical space today.”

The store carries men’s jackets, tops, pants, shorts and accessories. The brand’s research has found men prefer to shop off the hanger, so pants are hung as well as folded neatly above the racks in wall cubicles.

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Lululemon’s new store feeds into the brand’s ambitions to expand its men’s business.  Courtesy

Near the meditation room, acoustic gray felt baffles hang overhead and on one wall, giving the illusion of waves while absorbing noise.

The café, Fuel Space, will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and offer dine-in or take-out options, ranging from smoothies to salads, burgers to protein boxes. There is a full-service coffee bar and for those seeking a healthy buzz — Kombucha on tap.

The Lincoln Park store marks the sixth Lululemon store in Chicago; in addition to the eight stores the brand has in the Chicago suburbs.

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