It's been two months since shares of lululemon athletica (NASDAQ: LULU ) plummeted more than 20% in two days following the surprising news that the company's CEO, Christine Day, would step down. The sooner Lululemon can name a replacement, the better. The yoga-apparel stock is down nearly 5% year to date, as a string of mishaps has weighed on investor confidence.
In March, the retail chain was forced to pull 17% of its signature Luon pants from store shelves following a sheerness problem. This fumble led to the firing of Sheree Waterson, Lululemon's former chief product officer, and ultimately left three top management roles vacant. With the CEO position up for grabs, as well as that of senior VP of product operations and senior VP of logistics, the retailer is awfully vulnerable to competition.
A familiar face
While Lululemon has yet to announce a new CEO, rival athletic apparel companies are taking action. Gap's (NYSE: GPS ) sportswear brand Athleta recently named Nancy Green as its general manager. For Lululemon, the timing couldn't be worse. Gap-owned Athleta has been eyeing Lululemon's market lead for years now. Under Green's guidance, Athleta plans to grow its store count to 60 by the end of 2013. At the close of fiscal 2012, Lulu operated 186 retail stores.
Store count aside, it is the yoga retailer's impressive sales per square foot of $2,058 that make Lululemon the competitor to beat. However, if the company hopes to keep this lead going forward, it needs to mitigate the quality control issues it's experienced lately. Enter Jerry Stritzke.
Stritzke, who already sits on Lululemon's board, recently announced plans to leave his position as president and chief operating officer at Coach. That's prescient timing, if you ask me. In June, Women's Wear Daily speculated that Stritzke might be gunning for the job. In fact, the five-year veteran of Coach reportedly played a "meaningful role in correcting Lululemon's sourcing woes" earlier this year, says WWD.
Opportunity in disguise
Before joining Coach in 2008, Stritzke was a top executive at Limited Brands, which operates popular retail chains including Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works. While Lululemon has not announced Day's replacement, Stritzke's industry experience and position on Lululemon's board makes him a top contender for the role. Not to mention, it would be nice to see a man at the helm as the company looks to boost its sales of men's activewear.
Menswear offers a huge growth opportunity for Lululemon. Having a man replace Day might even help the retailer execute on its plans to open stand-alone men's apparel stores in 2016, as Bloomberg reports. Lululemon's ambitious road map for expanding product segments and international growth underscores the importance of naming a new CEO as soon as possible.
Competition in the retail space is reaching a boiling point. Only the most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward those investors who understand the landscape. While we wait for Lululemon to name a new CEO, I encourage you to check out 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in The Motley Fool's free special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.