Lululemon accused of ‘bullying’ rival Rhone out of NYC mall

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    The hot kids of athleisure are throwing a fit!

    Rhone, a men’s fitness clothing brand, officially shuttered its pop-up store in downtown’s Brookfield Place as of March 21. Now, a source with knowledge of leasing at the mall tells The Post it’s all because of “bullying” from rival brand Lululemon.

    “Lululemon said ‘It’s them or us,’ ” the source said. “They were pissed off. Both brands were up for lease renewals but Lululemon wouldn’t re-sign if Brookfield allowed Rhone to stay. They bullied them out of the mall.”

    A representative for Rhone confirmed that the brand left the mall and opened a new 1,500-square-foot flagship at 133 Fifth Ave. in the Flatiron District last month. However, they declined to comment on the circumstances of the brand’s departure from Brookfield or any alleged “bullying.” Brookfield declined to comment. Lululemon did not respond to requests for comment.

    “Rhone reached out to Lululemon to try and make nice, but they wouldn’t talk,” the source added. “I think they feel threatened.”

    Rhone shuttered its Brookfield Place pop-up store over alleged "bullying."
    Rhone shuttered its Brookfield Place pop-up store over alleged “bullying.”
    Heidi Lee

    Both brands, who count numerous influencers and celebs like Justin Hartley and Lucy Hale as fans, are in the process of expanding their brick and mortar footprints – at a time when fashion retail has been devastated by the pandemic. Lululemon, for instance, is in the process of renegotiating its lease and expanding in Brookfield Place, as it eyes $5.6 billion in sales in 2021, another source told The Post.

    Nevertheless, the level of antipathy and cattiness between the butt-defining leggings brands surprised retail experts.

    “If a Chinese restaurant opens in a mall, they will want a non-compete so that they are the only Chinese restaurants,” James Famularo, president of retail leasing at Meridian Capital Group, explained. “But clothing is a pretty wide category and a lot of times businesses thrive on competition. Just look at the Diamond District on 47th Street.”

    Famularo added that in the past it was not uncommon for rival retailers to go for the jugular. But in the current environment — with empty malls, empty storefronts and legacy brands entering bankruptcy – he said he would expect more goodwill.

    “In this environment, why bully anybody else?” he said. “If you’ve been able to survive all this, you’d think that you’d be a little more friendly.”



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