Lululemon's North America growth stagnates, retailer issues weak guidance

Lululemon on Thursday reported holiday earnings that topped expectations, but the athletic apparel retailer’s guidance came in below estimates as its growth in North America stagnates.

Here’s how company did in its fourth fiscal quarter compared with what Wall Street was anticipating, based on a survey of analysts by LSEG, formerly known as Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: $5.29 vs. $5.00 expected
  • Revenue: $3.21 billion vs. $3.19 billion expected

The company’s reported net income for the three-month period that ended Jan. 28 was $669.5 million, or $5.29 per share, compared with $119.8 million, or 94 cents per share, a year earlier. 

Sales rose to $3.21 billion, up about 16% from $2.77 billion a year earlier.

Shares fell about 6% in extended trading Thursday.

Like its peers, Lululemon has been grappling with uncertain demand and a slowdown in discretionary spending that’s hit the apparel space particularly hard. Investors have watched how Lululemon performs in North America, its largest region by sales, as it laps tougher prior year comparisons and contends with consumers who are choosing experiences over goods like clothes and shoes. 

During the quarter, sales rose 9% in the Americas, compared to 29% growth in the year-ago period. While Lululemon is still growing in the region, the rate has slowed down significantly as Lululemon focuses on expanding internationally.

During the quarter, international sales grew 54% on a reported basis, with sales in China growing 78% and 36% in the rest of Lululemon’s markets.

For the current quarter, Lululemon expects net revenue to be between $2.18 billion and $2.20 billion, representing growth of 9% to 10%. Analysts were expecting a forecast of $2.25 billion, or growth of 12.5%, according to LSEG.

It expects diluted earnings per share to be between $2.35 and $2.40, below the $2.55 analysts had expected, according to LSEG.

For the full year, it expects sales to be between $10.7 billion and $10.8 billion, compared with estimates of $10.9 billion, according to LSEG.

It anticipates diluted earnings per share will be between $14 and $14.20 for the year, compared to estimates of $14.13, according to LSEG.

Lululemon has long been one of the market leaders for women’s athletic apparel, but the Vancouver-based company is facing more competition than ever. Newer entrants like Alo Yoga and Vuori have been nipping at Lululemon’s market share, and it’s had to work harder to set itself apart in a more crowded category. 

The retailer has been working to build out its footwear offering and grow its men’s business. During the quarter, it opened its first men’s store in Beijing – a key growth market for the company. In February, it debuted its first men’s sneaker, CityVerse, and plans to launch new running styles for both men and women as performance sneakers continue to be a bright spot in an otherwise stagnant shoewear market. 

Headed into the holidays, CEO Calvin McDonald said Black Friday was the “single biggest day” in the company’s history and he was “encouraged” by the trends he was seeing at the start of the season. But the retailer’s holiday-quarter outlook came in a bit short of analysts’ expectations. 

In January, it raised that guidance after it saw sales “balanced across channels, categories, and geographies,” finance chief Meghan Frank said in a news release. 

Lululemon said it was expecting fiscal fourth quarter net revenue to be between $3.17 billion and $3.19 billion for the fourth quarter, up from a previous range of $3.14 billion to $3.17 billion. It also raised its guidance for earnings per share, and said it expects a range of between $4.96 and $5 per share, compared to a previous range of $4.85 to $4.93.

Read the full earnings release here. 

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