Lululemon says Q4 sales at high end of guidance, earnings better than expected

VANCOUVER – Lululemon Athletica Inc. (TSX:LLL) said Monday that fourth-quarter sales are expected to be at the high end of its guidance and that earnings will be better than expected.

The athletic clothing retailer said revenue for the key holiday quarter will be near the $475 million to $480 million previously forecast, based on a same-store sales percentage increase in the high single digits on a constant-dollar basis.

The retailer also said it now expects diluted earnings per share of 74 cents for the quarter ended Feb. 3. That compared with earlier guidance of between 71 and 73 cents per share.

The updated guidance compared with an average analyst estimate for 74 cents per share in earnings, but $488.1 million in revenue, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Shares in Lululemon, which released its updated guidance after the close of markets, were up $1.37 at $71.17 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

However, the stock was down about seven per cent in after-hours trading in the United States after the news broke.

Lululemon chief executive Christine Day said the results came as the calendar compressed holiday shopping patterns into a couple of key weeks.

“We are also pleased that our gross margin is running slightly ahead of plan and that we are entering 2013 in a clean inventory position,” Day said in a statement.

“Along with our new back-to-gym product, we are beginning to flow a beautiful new spring assortment into our stores this week and look forward to introducing new innovation and function to our guests in 2013.”

The high single-digit percentage same-store sales growth for the company’s fourth quarter compares with 18 per cent comparable-store sales growth in the third quarter.

Earlier this month, Credit Suisse downgraded Lululemon’s rating to “neutral” from sector “outperform” citing a likely slowdown in same-store sales momentum and the risk of further margin pressure.

Credit Suisse said it expected further slowing in 2013, especially at “mature” stores in Canada, which comprise 59 per cent of the chain’s total sales and have already seen a slowdown in growth.