Has Lululemon Found Their Niche?
Lululemon Athletica Inc. is a specialty apparel retailer based in Vancouver, BC known for its pricey yoga and running gear. When I featured the sports apparel company in my Companies to Watch report, I knew they were going places. So when the company opened a new location in Tampa, FL I was excited to be able to attend their grand opening.
I went with an intention of better understanding their niche. Pronounced “Lulu lemon”, the store has silliness to it also. The dressing room has a trampoline in it (they say it’s to check bra support), and there were people doing handstands in the middle of the sales floor. With large canvas pictures of locals (business owners, runners, yoga enthusiasts) and dry-erase boards to keep track of who you’re talking to in the fitting rooms, the store really has a sense of community. So does the company’s website. There are daily blogs and a live chat.
Yes the apparel is expensive, bras are $48, shorts are $54 and pants are $88 to over $100, but it’s specialty apparel. You get what you pay for, I guess. The customers in the store I visited were excited and thankful to spend their money. They had received great personal service and a one-of-a-kind fitting with the assurance that they were leaving with a custom fitted outfit that is not only designed for their activity of choice, but it will last for years of enjoyment. Lululemon is known for setting the bar in technical fabrics and functional designs, and for working with yoga professionals and athletes for continuous research and feedback. The specialty retailer really has figured out their niche.
A recent Lululemon press release stated “The company expects net revenue to be in the range of $358 million to $363 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011. This compares to the company’s previous guidance of net revenue in the range of $327 million to $332 million for the quarter, and compares to net revenue of $245 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2010.” A great factor for a company’s sales health is their comparable-store sales. Lululemon expects the fourth quarter to reflect a low-to-mid twenties percentage increase.
In last years annual report the company announced plans to open 22 to 27 additional stores. In the first three quarters of fiscal 2011, the company already opened 29 new stores. Since beginning to open franchise stores in select markets in 2002, the company ended its last quarter with 165 stores in North America and Australia. Last year Chain Store Guide reported 137 stores at fiscal year end, and 124 for the year before. According to CSG’s database of Apparel Specialty Stores, Lululemon Athletica, Inc. is projecting more openings MA, MI, NE, NM, OH, and WA. The company has seen growth in sales a store count year after year. The information in CSG’s Apparel Specialty Stores database also includes product and price lines, real estate data, and the Plus version contains personal email addresses.