Lululemon Plans Men’s Stores by 2016 to Sustain Growth

Lululemon Athletica Inc., having won over millions of women with its high-priced yoga gear, wants to keep growth going by chasing men.

The chain will start opening standalone men’s stores by 2016, Chief Executive Officer Christine Day said today in a presentation at a William Blair & Co. conference in Chicago. Her comments followed an announcement earlier this week that she’s retiring from the Vancouver-based company once the board finds a successor.

While Day said Lululemon’s existing menswear has sold well, brands associated with women have struggled to reach men in the past. Deckers Outdoor Corp.’s Uggs brand enlisted New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to make the case that wearing the furry boots was OK for males; the results were less than spectacular.

If Lululemon is going to win men over, the chain will “need to jump in the game and make a commitment to a men’s-oriented experience,” Eli Portnoy, chief executive officer of CultureRanch LLC, a Miami-based brand strategy consulting firm, said in a phone interview.

Lululemon’s clothing for men include golf polos for $98 and underwear for $48. Day said one polo top sold out in less than 48 hours online. Men’s apparel accounts for a “mid- to high-teen” percentage of the company’s sales mix, Betty Chen, a San Francisco-based analyst for Wedbush Securities, Inc. said in a phone interview.

Men’s same-store sales have been higher than the rest of the business “in general,” John Currie, chief financial officer, said on Lululemon’s earnings conference call June 10. He didn’t provide specific figures.

Since Lululemon said Day was leaving, the shares have plunged. While they rose 4 percent to $66.84 at the close in New York, they have fallen 12 percent this year, compared with a 15 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

(Updates with closing share price in seventh paragraph.)
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