Lululemon athletica (NASDAQ: LULU ) offers investors one of the most unique points of view in the performance-sportswear market after virtually creating the segment more than 10 years ago.
Lululemon is hoping that its brand originality, greater global adoption, and customer loyalty will drive further upside. Granted, there are many competitors in the field, especially global giant Nike (NYSE: NKE ) , but Lululemon's innovation and unique way of operating show that it won't go down without a fight.
What Nike doesn't offer
Nike is breathing down Lululemon's neck by flexing its financial might. There is nowhere in the world that Lululemon can open a store where it can hide from Nike.
On New York's Upper East Side, for example, Lululemon's store on 66th Street and Third Avenue is one block away from a Nike running store and directly across the street from a Reebok Concept Store.
On top of that, Nike's $5 billion in cash and short-term investments as of Feb. 28 is more than 75% of Lululemon's entire market cap of $6.5 billion. Talk about tough competition.
Lululemon recently introduced a new line of clothing dubbed &Go. The line includes dresses with wicking and breathable fabric as well as tops with cutouts that are lightweight and breathable with sun protection. Also offered are pants that are both appropriate for work and for fitness activities. Fashionista.com describes Lululemon's &Go line as "bike and boardroom friendly."
Versatility is a main component of Lululemon's differentiation strategy, which justifies Lululemon's premium prices. Lululemon has its mind set on a customer who requires apparel that is appropriate and durable enough to handle many activities in the same day, while Nike does not advertise its products as having such versatility.
Investors should embrace Lululemon's multi-functional lifestyle-wear, which proves that creativity is embedded in the company's culture.
Forget what the CEO looks like
Lululemon shares fell hard in late April after its new CEO Laurent Potdevin failed to excite analysts during a presentation. In fact, the New York Post described Potdevin as a "[d]umpy man with [a] bulging stomach."
Granted, this is not exactly the kind of image a leader of a health and wellness company is supposed to project, but Potdevin brings real industry experience to the table. With that said, perhaps Potdevin could update his wardrobe with Lululemon's expanding line of men's clothing.
Lululemon is introducing its dedicated men's store space in Miami, Santa Monica, Calif., and Vancouver, with more cities likely to follow. The company believes that the new concept could generate $1 billion in revenue over the next few years from the $216 million in sales it saw in 2013 from men's sales. Lululemon is hoping to attract the "mindful" athlete by leveraging its more upscale brand reputation and stealing market share away from competitors.
Lululemon hosts cool events
When was the last time Nike hosted a yoga event in the field at the iconic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs? The answer is it hasn't; but Lululemon did.
Lululemon has a unique approach to building brand identity that is specific to each region. Other notable events organized by Lululemon include a complimentary yoga class on the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh and a half marathon in the city of Vancouver in which 10,015 people will participate. Events such as these are unparalleled and perhaps the strongest way of driving further brand awareness.
Analysts at Oppenheimer said on May 21 that Lululemon is on track to report first-quarter comps in line with guidance. Additionally, Oppenheimer believes that Lululemon will announce second-quarter guidance that is in line with the consensus estimate. Oppenheimer also stated that Lululemon remains the leader in its category and can leverage its reputation and brand when it continues its steady and carefully planned out expansion abroad.
Some analysts also favor Nike however for different reasons. Analysts at Macquarie upgraded shares to outperform from neutral in early April party due to valuation. The analyst noted that shares are trading at 23 times the 2014 earnings-per-share estimate of $3.20 compared to an historical average of 24 times.
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