UPDATE 2-Lululemon expects better margins to boost profit this year

Wed Mar 30, 2016 11:04am EDT
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(Adds details, CFO comments)

March 30 (Reuters) - Canadian retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc said it expected improved margins and sales to drive its earnings growth this year, sending its shares up 10 percent in morning trading.

The company reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, helped by strong sales during the holiday shopping period.

Lululemon, known for its upscale yoga-wear, said it planned to improve margins by reining in costs through a shift to ocean freight from air freight and planning orders better to ensure fewer cancellations.

"We now see our plans for a recovery in profitability coming into sharper focus," Chief Financial Officer Stuart Haselden said on a post-earnings conference call.

Haselden said the first quarter would mark the last step in Lululemon's transition to regaining earnings growth as the company works to reduce inventory levels and strengthen supply chain capabilities.

Lululemon reported gross margin of 50.3 percent for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31, up from 46.9 percent in the previous quarter.

The company, which competes with Nike Inc and Under Armour Inc in the lucrative athleisure market, said it planned to more than double its earnings by 2020.

Athleisure is a mix of athletic and casual clothing that has grown popular even in formal settings in the United States.   Continued...