Is lululemon athletica Inc. Ready to Turn the Corner?

lululemon is competing with Under Armour for market share in the global athletic apparel segment

Lululemon reports earnings this Thursday. Source: lululemon athletica.

Gear up, lululemon athletica (NASDAQ: LULU  ) investors, because your favorite yoga apparel specialist releases first-quarter earnings this Thursday.

The market isn't asking much. Analysts, on average, are modeling 10% year-over-year revenue growth to $381.2 million, which they expect will translate to flat earnings of $0.32 per share. For reference, both figures sit within Lululemon management's first-quarter guidance for revenue of $377 million to $382 million, and earnings per diluted share of $0.31 to $0.33.

What's more, Lululemon should enjoy a relatively low bar considering shares unraveled around this time last year when its visionary CEO of five years, Christine Day, shocked investors by announcing she would step down pending the appointment of a successor. Lululemon found him six months later in Laurent Potdevin, whose previous credits include serving as CEO of Burton Snowboards, and president of socially conscious shoe-maker Toms.

Here's what to watch
But apart from Lululemon's usual quarterly revenue and earnings figures, what else should you be watching when the company reports?

First, keep an eye on Lululemon's full-year guidance. Last quarter, management told investors to expect fiscal 2014 sales of $1.77 billion to $1.82 billion on comparable-store sales growth in the low-to mid single digits, which should result in earnings per share of $1.80 to $1.90. However, Wall Street is already looking for fiscal 2014 earnings of $1.89 per share on sales of $1.8 billion. So, while there's certainly a case to be made for temporarily ignoring "weak" guidance, any top- or bottom-line beats will likely need to be accompanied by a corresponding guidance increase for the market to take kindly to Lululemon's results.

Digging a little deeper, also listen for any comments regarding whether consumers are flocking back to Lululemon's brand. Lululemon has undoubtedly suffered from a series of PR nightmares, including its see-through pants recall last spring and customer-insulting comments in late November from its founder and now-former chairman. With the worst (hopefully) behind it, Lululemon should now be well on its way to rebuilding crucial rapport with customers and investors.

Equally important is Lululemon's challenge in convincing the world that it's more than just a yoga brand, so keep an ear open for any updates on Luluemon's planned expansions of both its kid-centric ivivva brand and its outperforming men's segment. Ivivva, for its part, is performing particularly well, posting double-digit comps last quarter, and sales consistently around $900 per square foot in each of its 12 locations in 2013. That's why up to 10 of Lululemon's planned 42 new corporate-owned stores this year will be ivivva locations.

And Lululemon's Men's segment is key to expanding its reach, especially as fast-growing competitors like Under Armour (NYSE: UA  ) encroach on its turf. But while Under Armour is still delighting investors with its exceptional growth -- sales increased 36% year over year last quarter -- Under Armour stock already reflects much of that optimism, with shares trading around 73 times trailing-12-month earnings and 48 times next year's estimates.

That's not to say Lululemon hasn't enjoyed any optmism of late. In March, Potdevin adjusted the market's expectations by describing 2014 as "an investment year with an emphasis on strengthening our foundation, reigniting our product engine, and accelerating sustainable and controlled global expansion." Investors grew excited about the last item in particular, driving the price of Lululemon stock up 10% in a single day.

Foolish takeaway
Alas, given the current lull in sales and earnings growth, Lululemon shares currently sit around 23.5 and 20 times trailing and forward earnings, respectively, and have fallen more than 20% so far this year -- so low, in fact, it has sparked takeover chatter among analysts given Lululemon's considerable earnings potential going forward.

In any case, it'll definitely be interesting to see what the market thinks of Lululemon on Thursday. As a shareholder myself, you can bet I'll be touching base after the report.

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