Lululemon snaps up REI's Averill to fill CTO spot
Lululemon has tapped REI Chief Information Officer Julie Averill as executive vice president and chief technology officer, a Lululemon spokesperson confirmed to GeekWire but declined to comment further citing the company's "quiet period" ahead of its earnings announcement June 1.
During her three years at REI, Averill spearheaded the company's technology strategy and IT operations. REI confirmed her departure from the company to GeekWire, but did not comment further.
REI is based in Seattle, while Lululemon is based a few hours north in Vancouver, Canada, though Averill reportedly will continue to work out of the Seattle area, where many big-box retailers such as Staples, Best Buy and Sears have all created engineering hubs in recent years.
There have been a lot of moves on the tech executive front in retail recently, from Target's innovation chief departing to Staples naming its first chief information security officer.
This report comes not long after Lululemon said that Miguel Almeida, who was hired less than two years ago to overhaul the retailer's digital e-commerce operations, was leaving the company. Almeida's hiring actually occurred right around the same time that Averill was being elevated to the job of CIO at REI, where she reportedly help the retailer migrate many systems to the cloud, among other endeavors.
Generally speaking, technology innovation has been seen as a recent strength at Lululemon even though the company has continued to have a bit of an up-and-down financial performance from one quarter to the next.
Overall, retailers focusing on the outdoors have not been having a great year, as tighter competition and falling financial performance has forced players like Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops to pursue consolidation. However, REI has been viewed as one of the up-and-comers in that category, as GlobalData Retail analyst Håkon Helgesen noted to Retail Dive recently.
Meanwhile, the athleisure segment that Lululemon calls home has faced its share if difficulties as well. Once a red-hot market, demand fell dramatically in the last year or so, leaving the brands involved looking for answers. One of Lululemon's most recent efforts to shake the segment's doldrums is a new marketing campaign that targets younger consumers.
That may not have much to do with the hiring of a new CTO, but could suggest that more will be changing on the technology front as well. The projects Averill chooses to tackle first, as well as the ones she puts on the backburner, should tell us a lot about what will change in the short term.