3. Lulu Takes a Licking
Well, maybe not the full first 12 days of January. It's more like 11 and a half days if you count store closings and shortened hours for the New Year's holiday, but still.
Here's what happened. Lulu's stock took a licking Monday, Jan. 13, dropping 17% after its Chief Financial Officer John Currie lowered the yoga-wear retailer's fiscal fourth-quarter guidance range. Currie told the Street he's now looking for per share earnings of 71 to73 cents on revenue of $513 million to $518 million for the period ending Feb. 2. That's substantially lower than the company's prior guidance of 78 to 80 cents per share on revenue of $535 million to $540 million.Honestly, it would have been fine with us if he came clean like everybody else and said holiday sales flat-out sucked. But no, as always, Lulu has to be different. "We were on track to deliver on our sales and earnings guidance through the month of December; however, since the beginning of January, we have seen traffic and sales trends decelerate meaningfully," claimed Currie. "Based on this recent performance and assuming these trends continue through the remainder of January, we are reducing our outlook for the fourth quarter." We know we're nitpickers, nevertheless, let us get this straight. Nearly every single merchant in the mall from American Eagle to Zumiez has lowered guidance in the past two weeks due to crummy Christmas sales. Things were so bad over the holidays at J.C. Penney (JCP) that the retailer decided to simply skip its December same store sales results. That's right, not report them at all! And did you see what happened to Best Buy's (BBY) shares Thursday when it posted domestic holiday comps down 0.9%? They went Kaboom! Currie, however, wants us to believe that December was decidedly dandy for Lulu -- and Lulu alone. If we are to believe him, Lulu is cutting sales projections by as much as $27 million due to a slowdown during a short, promotional window in January as opposed to the all-important Christmas period. Sorry, but like Lulu's merchandise, we're not buying it, and, as evidenced by the stock's shellacking, nobody else is either. Look. We know Lulu's new CEO Laurent Potdevin really wants to chart a new course after last year's string of gaffes. Still, it would have been fine for Lulu to join the pack in this case instead of making bold pronouncements that skeptical folks like us would pore over. After last year's sheer pants debacle, Lulu should know the importance of taking cover when you can get it.