December 1, 2011 / 12:53 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 5-Lululemon sales come up short, shares tumble

* Q3 EPS $0.27 vs $0.18 last year

* Revenue up 31 pct to $230.2 million

* Same-store sales up 16 percent

* Sees low to mid-teen same-store sales gain in Q4 (Adds quotes, detail from conference call, background)

TORONTO, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Lululemon Athletica Inc’s LLL.TO (LULU.O) quarterly profit rose but sales of its signature yoga slightly missed analyst expectations, sending its shares down 16 percent.

It is the second quarter in a row that the chain has shown signs of faltering. Catching a wave of popularity for yoga among young professional women, its premium exercise pants and other apparel have gained an enthusiastic following. Lately any signal that its growth might slow has spooked investors.

The Vancouver-based company said on Thursday revenue rose 31 percent to $230.2 million in its third quarter ended Oct. 30. Analysts on average had forecast $235.7 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales at established stores rose 16 percent, compared with its own forecast of the low to mid-teens in percentage terms. That was lower that same-store sales growth of 20 percent in the previous quarter.

Looking ahead, the company made a low to mid-teens forecast for the current quarter.

“Lulu remains an attractive growth story, in our view; however, today’s numbers likely won’t be enough to keep the stock going at its current multiple,” Nomura analyst Paul Lejuez wrote in a research note.

Chief Executive Christine Day said the company had not been able to meet sales demand in the quarter. Lululemon has struggled to catch up on inventory since the end of 2010, when it posted particularly strong sales. Day said the situation has improved in the current quarter.

“Our goal for Q4 was to break the inventory cycle we were in all year, and we have achieved it,” she said. “We have the right mix of styles and color, and a healthy and clean inventory.”

Lululemon has expanded rapidly in Canada, the United States and Australia. The company opened or acquired 18 stores in the quarter, bringing its total to 165.

Profit rose to $38.8 million, or 27 cents a share, from $25.7 million, or 18 cents, a year earlier. Analysts were expecting earnings of 25 cents.

The company forecast earnings between 40 and 42 cents in the fourth quarter, and revenue between $327 million and $332 million.

The stock was down 16 percent at C$42.63 in early trading on Thursday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Aftab Ahmed in Bangalore; Editing by Frank McGurty)

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