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Lululemon Apparel a Perfect Fit for Store Owner Matt Deleselle

In taking the company's culture and mission to heart, he makes the extra effort to help employees reach their health and career goals

How does a professional athlete turn his passion into a business? Matt Deleselle knew it when he saw it. Lululemon was a budding Canadian company that had heart and high-quality products. The former professional skier took the leap and landed firmly in Santa Barbara.

Lululemon’s first store opened in Vancouver in 2000. The idea was to have the store be a community hub where people could learn and discuss the physical and mental aspects of healthy living, from yoga and diet to running and cycling.

Now, the company has more than 100 locations in Canada, the United States and Australia, and offers wear for running, yoga, pilates, golf, tennis and cross function. It also expanded its lines to include fashions for men and women.

Delesalle just hit the four-year mark with his store, which was the fifth to open in the United States and is one of the few privately owned locations. He knew the founder of Lululemon in Canada and felt that the corporate culture and mission aligned well with his personal direction.

Delesalle’s store, in Paseo Nuevo, has 1,800 square feet of retail space. He said Santa Barbara is the perfect market for the Lululemon brand.

“People here live an active lifestyle, want to support a locally owned company and appreciate high-quality products,” he said.

Most of his customers are locals who seek the style, fit and quality of the clothing, but he also has a fair amount of tourists walk in.

Throughout the store, Lululemon Athletica espouses a clear mission: to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness. It does this at the ground level, through the way it structures its stores, trains its staff and approaches customers. The company culture is clearly one of empowerment and personal responsibility.

Delesalle said it takes months for new hires, who they call educators instead of salespeople, to become fully up to speed. He oversees hiring and training personally to ensure employees fully embrace the brand, know the products and receive support around their personal, career and health goals. He employs 10 to 15 full-time employees.

A chart in the back office spells out the store’s financial goals, actual income and staffing hours for every month of the year. Next to the board are employee goal sheets. It all aligns with Delesalle’s commitment to have his employees feel like they are running their own small business.

“I love seeing people grow and fully expect that many will use their time working here as a stepping stone toward further success,” he said.

He calls it the trickle-back effect, in that public posting of goals and inclusion of employees to the store’s goals help ensure achievement.

Delesalle said Lululemon garments are made by athletes for athletes. The quality engineering, with details such as locking zippers, cuffins, thumb holes or ponytail holders, result in a higher price point, but the fiercely loyal customers are willing to pay.

The experience of shopping in a Lululemon store also is unique. The employees are knowledgeable and take a lot of time to walk customers through their options. They also offer complimentary hemming to ensure the perfect fit.

Lululemon has created several functional signature fabrics: luon (nylon and lycra), which is texturized during the manufacturing process, making it fluffier and softer feeling; and Silverescent, which has real silver fibers woven into the fabric. It is anti-stink because of silver’s natural anti-microbial properties, and is excellent for high-sweat activities.

As part of its commitment to the community, Lululemon forms partnerships with ambassadors — individuals who embody the active and healthy lifestyle that’s at the heart of the company. Lululemon encourages and promotes the local experts, who are also tapped to test the products and provide design feedback. Ambassadors for the Santa Barbara store for this year include Melanie Elkin, Nicole Inglish, E Bonnie Lewis, Michael Luan, Drea McLarty and Sloane Pellegrin.

In line with its sensitivity to employees and customers, Lululemon is also passionate about the planet. It uses low VOC paints, energy-efficient lighting and reclaimed wood flooring, offers showers for staff (to encourage them to cycle to work and take in-store classes), and brainstorms other initiatives to help minimize its footprint.

The Santa Barbara store offers free marathon clinics, yoga, meditation, hip hop and bar method instruction, among other classes. Click here for information about upcoming events.

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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