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Lululemon CEO Defends Firing Employees Who Intervened in Robbery: ‘It’s Only Merchandise’

Lululemon CEO Defends Firing Employees Who Intervened in Robbery: ‘It’s Only Merchandise’

Calvin McDonald responded to criticism he and the athleisure company have received after firing two Georgia retail employees

Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald has three words when it comes to retail theft: “It’s only merchandise.”

McDonald says the athleisure company stands by its decision to fire two retail employees for breaching protocol after a robbery at a Lululemon location in Peachtree Corners, Georgia.

McDonald made the remarks during a CNBC “Squawk on the Street” interview, citing the company’s zero-tolerance policy for engaging thieves.

News of the robbery went viral last month after two Lululemon employees alleged they were fired from the athleisure retailer for calling the police, which McDonald denies.

The incident, which was recorded on video, showed two masked men rushing into the store, grabbing merchandise near the front entrance, and quickly running out. 

McDonald stated that as theft has become a growing topic in the retail industry, Lululemon has invested across three pillars: training, investing in technology and working with local and federal law enforcement. 

However, the Lululemon employees in question breached protocol during the late April robbery, McDonald said, referring to the staffers as “educators.”

“In this particular case, we have a zero-tolerance policy that we train our educators on around engaging during a theft. Why? Because we put the safety of our team and of our guests front and center,” McDonald said in the interview with CNBC. “It’s only merchandise. … They are trained to step back, let the theft occur, know that there is technology and cameras, and [know] that we are working with law enforcement.” 

He added that the two Georgia Lululemon employees “knowingly broke the policy” by engaging with the thieves across multiple points, including following them out of the store, ultimately resulting in their termination from the athleisure company. 

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“Just to be clear, our educators are able to call the police,” McDonald clarified. “We train them to step back. It’s about their safety…the policy is to protect them.” 

credit: Peachtree City Police Dept

Four men were arrested in connection with the $7,000 Lululemon robbery.

On a positive note, Lululemon reported strong sales growth in the first quarter of the year, with net revenue of $2 billion, a 24% increase compared to the same period last year. Looking at the year ahead in full, Lululemon expects net revenue to be between $9.4-$9.5 billion, representing growth of approximately 17%.

The athleisure company plans to expand its Vancouver headquarters, adding 2,600 new jobs. 

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