Why lululemon athletica Stock Hit a New Low Today

Investors punished Lululemon stock today after the retailer reported first-quarter earnings. Here’s what investors need to know.

Jun 12, 2014 at 6:40PM

Investors pushed shares of lululemon athletica (NASDAQ:LULU) lower by more than 15% in trading today, following the retailer's first-quarter earnings results and weak guidance for its current quarter. The stock touched a fresh 52-week low of $37 a share as a result. But before you jump on the sell bandwagon, let's look at some key takeaways from Lululemon's earnings call and what investors can expect going forward.

Beyond the numbers
For the period ended May 4, Lululemon generated a profit of $0.34 per diluted share, which was above its prior guidance for earnings in the range of $0.31 to $0.33 per share. This also topped Wall Street's expectations, as analysts were looking for earnings per share of just $0.32 in the quarter. However, if you factor in the one-time tax charge related to Lululemon's recently announced share buyback plan, the company's earnings per share in the quarter were actually $0.13. 

The retailer said it would begin a $450 million share buyback program to enhance shareholder value. Moreover, Lululemon is funding its share buyback program with overseas earnings. As a result, the retailer was hit with a one-time tax charge of $30.9 million in the quarter as part of the planned repatriation of foreign earnings. The repurchase program will be completed in two years.

On top of this, Lululemon's chief financial officer, John Currie, will retire by the end of fiscal 2014. This puts Lululemon on the defensive once again as it must find a replacement for Currie, who has been with the company since 2007. The upscale athletic apparel retailer has endured a major management shuffle in the past year, which included the sudden exit of longtime CEO Christine Day.

More bad news
Management's weak guidance for the current quarter, however, was perhaps the biggest catalyst for today's sharp sell-off. The retailer now expects second-quarter net revenue in the range of $375 million to $380 million and a comparable-sales decline in the low- to mid-single digits. Lululemon also lowered its full-year guidance, saying it expects fiscal 2014 earnings of $1.71 to $1.76 per share, down from its prior outlook for full-year earnings of $1.80 to $1.90 per share. 

Given the market's response to these results, it seems investors were hoping for a more immediate turnaround in the business. But to be fair, Lululemon's new chief executive, Laurent Potdevin, has been very forthcoming about the company's recovery strategy. On the earnings call with analysts today, he explained that this is a transitional year for Lululemon as the company reinvigorates its brand with new product categories and expands its presence overseas. "Despite a reduced outlook, I am confident that the work we are doing today will only enhance our premium positioning as we continue to lead as the market innovator," Potdevin explained. Ultimately, investors need to understand that Lululemon's recovery isn't going to happen overnight.

Nevertheless, despite the ongoing challenges facing Lululemon today, there were some bright spots in its earnings release.

Where Lululemon is getting it right
It wasn't all bad news. The company's direct sales were up 25% year over year, which means people are buying more Lululemon products online. Potdevin said digital technology has been rolled out to Lululemon's entire network of stores that allows customers to shop Lululemon's online inventory while in the store.

The company's international expansion is another growth channel for Lululemon. The retailer recently celebrated the successful opening of its first London store, which is now on track to do $7 million in sales in its first year, according to Potdevin. Moreover, by the end of 2014, Lululemon will have a presence in eight countries outside of the U.S. and Canada. Lululemon ended its fiscal first quarter with just 263 stores worldwide -- leaving plenty of room for growth in the future. 

Taking stock of the situation
There's no doubt that Lululemon shareholders can expect a bumpy ride going forward. After all, the retailer is in the midst of a major overhaul of its business as it tries to win back the trust of customers and investors alike.

Given management's troubled outlook for the remainder of the year, it's not likely that the stock will recover much during the coming quarters -- shares are down more than 34% over the past year. However, longer term, Lululemon's efforts to reinvigorate the brand with a fresh product mix and renewed focus on menswear could pay off for patient investors.

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Tamara Rutter owns shares of lululemon athletica. The Motley Fool recommends lululemon athletica. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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