* EPS $0.16 vs forecast $0.15
* Revenue $103.9 million
* Sees Q1 EPS in range of 7-8 cents
* Shares close up 15.5 percent at C$9.40 on TSX (Adds details; in U.S. dollars unless noted)
By Scott Anderson
TORONTO, March 26 (Reuters) - Lululemon Athletica LLL.TO (LULU.O) reported lower fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday that beat estimates, but the upscale clothier said it expects a decline in same-store sales as it grapples with the slowing economy.
It also said it would limit its outlook until it better understands consumer spending patterns for 2009.
The company, whose shares closed up 15.5 percent on Thursday at C$9.40 ahead of the results, said it expects same-store sales to decline “in the low double digits” in the first quarter, compared with the same period of 2008.
The maker of trendy yoga and workout wear, also expects revenue for the quarter to be in the range of $70 million to $75 million, with earnings per share between 7 cents and 8 cents.
“The global economy has created an unprecedented and challenging operating environment,” John Currie, the company’s chief financial officer, said on a conference call with analysts.
“Until there is additional clarity on consumer spending, hopefully in the second half of the year, we are limiting our earnings guidance to the first quarter of 2009.”
The company also said it plans to open six new stores this year, with none planned for the first quarter. It said it still had its sights on a stable of about 300 stores in North America down the road.
It currently has more than 100 stores in Canada, the United Stats, Australia and Hong Kong.
The company had a long-term growth target of 35 stores per year, but conceded earlier this year that it was not the right time for aggressive expansion.
Instead Lululemon plans to scale back and wait until lease rates drop even lower before committing to long-term agreements.
Lululemon said it earned $10.9 million, or 16 cents a share in its fourth quarter, ended Feb. 3. That was down from $14.6 million, or 21 cents a share a year earlier.
Revenue slid to $103.9 million from $104 million.
Analysts had expected, on average, earnings per share of 15 cents, before items, and revenue of $94.5 million.
The Vancouver, British Columbia-based company said sales at stores open at least a year fell 8 percent year over year.
It said consumers had scaled back on expensive clothing items as the global economic downturn deepened, and it said the weaker Canadian dollar had also hit its results.
“The weak consumer sentiment and overall macro picture continue to weigh heavily on retailers and we are certainly not completely immune to its effects,” Christine Day, the company’s chief executive said during the call.
In December, Lululemon cut its full-year earnings guidance. At the time it also estimated fourth-quarter earnings of between 15 and 17 cents a share and revenue of $90 million to $95 million.
$1=$1.23 Canadian Reporting by Scott Anderson; editing by Rob Wilson