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Lululemon Snubbed Yoga-Loving UWS Block Party, Organizers Say

By Emily Frost | September 18, 2012 6:46am

UPPER WEST SIDE — Only a month after opening its sixth Manhattan store at 75th and Broadway, yoga clothing giant Lululemon has angered a local neighborhood group by refusing to contribute to its annual block party. 

The West 75th Street Block Association went into heavy planning mode this August, preparing for its annual September 22 Block Blast party that features a bouncy castle, live entertainment and a rummage sale, as well as food and contributions that come from local businesses.

But organizers were shocked when the brand new Lululemon on their block refused to pitch in.

"We’re just not used to getting the door slammed in our face like that  and it’s kind of unacceptable to us," said DeAnna Rieber, president of the West 75th Street Block Association.

Rieber asked the store to contribute an item to its raffle, offer yoga demonstrations at the party or contribute in some way to the community event, which closes the street to traffic from Broadway to West End Avenue.

Lululemon said no, Rieber said, referencing a corporation-wide policy against contributing to community groups. 

Rieber said Lululemon staffers suggested she send partygoers to its regular free 9 a.m. Saturday in-store class. Rieber doesn't consider this a genuine or helpful offer, however, because she said the Block Blast begins at 10 a.m. and is meant to get neighbors interacting with each other on the street. 

Carolyn Manning, a spokeswoman for Lululemon, said the store does not generally offer free products becuase "we feel it undervalues both the product and what our guest generally expects."

She said the store offered "both an in-store yoga class the morning of the block party... and refreshments for the community throughout the day, but the association chose not to take us up on the offer."

Rieber said many in her association are outraged by the store.

"They’re all smiley on the surface but not when it comes down to participating in the community they’re part of," she said. 

Rieber said Lululemon should take a note from Eastern Mountain Sports, which reached out to the Block Association and other groups to see how it could contribute before it even opened its doors last fall at West 76th and Broadway.

"[Lululemon] comes from a different place," she said.

"It seems very self-indulgent. I think they take care of their own, but that care doesn’t go beyond their own self-interest.

"It’s such a stupid business policy. People in our neighborhood won’t shop there."

According to Lululemon's most recent investor relations release, the company's gross profit increased by 35 percent in the first two quarters of 2012 to $313 million.