Does lululemon Have You Down? Buy Under Armour Instead

On recent weakness, shares of Under Armour are more attractive than those of lululemon for long-term growth in the athletic-apparel segment.

May 10, 2014 at 8:07AM

Shares of lululemon athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) came under pressure yet again last week as the newly instated management team refused to go into detail about the company's plans for future brand expansion. While the situation is disappointing for shareholders, there is an easy remedy -- buy Under Armour (NYSE:UA) instead.

Under Armour remains the most aggressive growth story in the athletic-apparel segment and one of the best overall long-term investments. . 


Source: Official Under Armour Facebook 

Brand appeal
At first glance, lululemon and Under Armour appear similar. Both companies target an active consumer who doesn't mind paying a premium price for high-performance athletic gear. Consumers have also been wearing the products of both companies more often in more casual settings as well, which makes lululemon and Under Armour more than just mere athletic-apparel leaders.

However, the major difference between the two companies comes in the form of brand appeal. Quite simply, lululemon's target audience is very limited in comparison with that of Under Armour. While the latter started out as a male-centric niche football brand, management at Under Armour quickly expanded the brand to an audience that now includes men, women, youth, and adults.

Meanwhile, lululemon has struggled significantly to branch out past its loyal female, yoga-centered consumer base. The company has even angered its current clientele with a series of disastrous public relations nightmares in recent years, including a massive recall of too-sheer yoga pants and disparaging comments from lululemon founder Chip Wilson.

Efforts are being made
Despite difficulties, lululemon is making progress on expanding the appeal of its brand. The company has aimed its new &go line at making its clothes more accessible and practical in casual and even formal settings. 

Additionally, lululemon's Ivivva product line, aimed at young women of ages six to fifteen, has been growing well recently. On the company's most recent earnings call, management said Ivviva sales increased an impressive 17%. The biggest impact Ivivva can have on the overall company is to lock-in young women to the lululemon stable of brands and hopefully make them loyal customers for long into the future. 

However, at a recent investor's conference, management refused to go into detail about the company's specific future growth goals, which understandably created a lot of uncertainty for investors. Shares of lululemon dropped over 5% the following day and have languished in the week since then. 

Protect your house
Luckily for investors, Under Armour does not have this brand image problem. The company continues to grow at robust levels, as its revenue grew 36% and earnings per share grew 71% in the first quarter.  In addition, management has been very confident and clear in what it expects from the company going forward, as it has raised the company's fiscal-2014 guidance to call for revenue growth of 24%-25%. 

Founder and CEO Kevin Plank explained, "This strong start to 2014 illustrates the unlimited potential that still lies ahead for our Brand, whether it is today's opening of our Brand House in New York City or our product hitting shelves for the first time in Brasil. Our opportunity requires that we remain focused on building powerful product platforms that service athletes at home and abroad, on and off the playing field." 


(Source: Official lululemon Facebook Page) 

Bottom line
With a forward P/E of 20 versus Under Armour's 41, lululemon appears to be a value/growth play at current levels. However, this in no way means that it carries less risk for investors.

In fact, Under Armour in many ways remains the less risky investment thanks to its stronger brand, better and more transparent management team, and higher growth potential. If lululemon has you down, buy Under Armour now on weakness.

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