Updated from 7:53 a.m. EDT with details from analyst conference call.
The yoga apparel maker reported that first-quarter earnings fell 11.8% from the prior year to 30 cents a share excluding one-time items, missing Wall Street forecasts of 31 cents. Total revenue rose 17% to $495 million, narrowly surpassing estimates of $487 million.
Lululemon lost considerable sales momentum from the holiday season, likely due to inclement weather that hurt retailers more broadly and intensified competition in athleticwear from Nike (NKE - Get Report) and Under Armour (UA - Get Report) . Comparable-store sales rose 3%, or 5% excluding the influence of the strong dollar. Total comparable-store sales, which include sales online, increased 6% or 8% when stripping out currency fluctuations. Sales online increased 17% in the first quarter from the prior year to $97.6 million.
In the fourth quarter, total comparable-store sales and online sales increased a healthier 11% and 20.8%, respectively.
"We are pleased with our first-quarter performance, delivering strong sales results and gross margin that exceeded expectations," said Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin in a statement. Potdevin must have had pretty low expectations for gross profit margin -- it worryingly fell to 48.3% from 48.6% a year ago.
"The numbers were really solid," said TheStreet's founder Jim Cramer of the earnings report. While speculation has been rampant that LuLulemon could be a target for Nike or Under Armour Cramer said he was bullish on the stock due to strong growth potential.
"It's not a takeover play, it's an earnings play,"
Lululemon may be experiencing a further slowdown so far in the second quarter.
The company forecast second-quarter earnings of 36 cents a share to 38 cents a share, below Wall Street estimates of 39 cents. Total same-store sales, on a constant currency basis, are seen increasing by a mid-single digit percentage, slower than the 8% gain in the first quarter. On a call with analysts, Lululemon executives acknowledged that traffic to its stores was weak in May and remained soft into the early stages of June. "Traffic has been mixed," said an executive.
Despite the sluggish results and guidance, Lululemon left its full-year guidance unchanged likely as it banks on a bumper holiday season. It still sees earnings of $2.05 to $2.15 a share, which was below Wall Street estimates for $2.16 a share. Investors remained optimistic, as they sent Lululemon shares higher by 1.7% in early trading Wednesday.
The disappointing first quarter and guidance comes at a prickly time for Lululemon.
In a recent open letter to shareholders, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson said that "Lululemon has lost its way and I believe a call to action is needed." Wilson argued that the company is falling behind key rivals and that current management "cannot continue to cede the market opportunity we created to Under Armour and Nike." According to a source close to the matter, Lululemon's product quality may be a few notches down than when it was in its heyday, leading consumers to question why they should be paying significantly higher prices relative to offerings from Nike, Under Armour and others.