Wilson, who with a 14% stake is Lululemon's largest shareholder, wrote in a June 1 open letter that the company "created the global athleisure market," but has started to "cede the market opportunity we created to Under Armour (UA) - Get Report and Nike (NKE) - Get Report ." Since December 2013, he noted, Under Armour shares have increased 79%, Nike shares 45% and the S&P 500 16%, while Lululemon shares have fallen 8%.
Lululemon reported its first-quarter earnings on June 8. Revenue rose 17% year-over-year to $495 million, beating consensus estimates of $487 million. However, earnings per share of 30 cents missed the forecast 31 cents and represented a 12% drop.
Despite that performance, Wilson is overly hard on the company he founded, according to Jim Cramer, TheStreet's founder and manager of the Action Alerts PLUS portfolio.
"I've been very critical of Lululemon for a long time even though I'd set a low bar for it," he said. "But the bar got higher and higher under this new regime."
Although Lululemon missed earnings per share numbers and sales growth fell slightly, "the company literally had the best apparel numbers of anybody, including Nike and Under Armour," Cramer noted. "I'm saying it's a work in progress that's getting better. [Wilson is] saying ignore whatever's happening, it's not as good."
Analysts largely agreed with Cramer.
MKM Partners analyst Roxanne Meyer, reiterating her Buy rating and $77 price target, wrote, "LULU's fundamentals are solid," highlighting "the strength of its brand and a strong response to innovation." She views Lululemon as "one of the most relevant brands in the fast-growing category of athletic apparel" and believes "2015 was a trough year."
Similarly, Oppenheimer's Anna Andreeva called Lululemon "our favorite way to play athletic," anticipating improving margins as "supply chain initiatives get better realized/brand equity momentum continue." She reiterated her Outperform rating and $80 price target, saying its "brand equity remains intact" despite controversy about performance.
Sounding a more cautious note, BMO Capital Markets' John Morris reiterated his Market Perform rating and $64 price target. While applauding a "solid quarter," he believes shares are "priced for perfection," at a valuation which "already discounts future outperformance."
Although Wilson accused Cramer of going easy on the company, Cramer added, "I've been at this game for a long time, and I'm not a person who gives passes."