lululemon athletica (LULU 1.22%) faced the same troubles as many clothing retailers during the worst of the pandemic. The maker of yoga-inspired activewear temporarily closed stores. And consumers focused more on buying essentials than on discretionary items. But lululemon managed to use its digital strength to keep connected with fans -- and keep revenue flowing in.
As a result, digital sales soared. And once most stores reopened, sales there climbed too. In fact, total revenue only declined for one quarter during the pandemic. It's been on the rise for the past two quarters. So now, let's skip ahead a bit. Things are looking good for lululemon today. But how will they look a year from now?
Let's start with what may happen next. The company is set to report fourth-quarter and full year earnings soon. The retailer earlier this year boosted expectations for the quarter. That's thanks to strong holiday shopping trends both digitally and in its stores. What can we expect? Net revenue growth should be at the high end of the mid-to-high teens estimate. And earnings per share may come in at the high end of lululemon's mid-single digit forecast.
In the second and third quarters, net revenue climbed 2% and 22%, respectively. That's year over year. And earnings per share (EPS) improved from 66 cents in the second quarter to $1.10 in the third. EPS rose 15% in the third quarter from the year-earlier period. It's fair to say lululemon has recovered and returned to growth.
Now, let's take a glance into the past. The company's revenue has climbed over the past 15 years. And operating income has risen most years during that period.
There are three reasons we can expect a continuation of that upward trend. And they are the key points in the company's "Power of Three" strategic plan. Lululemon announced the plan in April of 2019 and aims to reach the goals by 2023.
The first point is product innovation. Lululemon expects to more than double revenue from its men's collection. And it plans to expand and strengthen women's and accessories categories. The second goal has to do with building a seamless digital and in-store experience. When lululemon announced the plan, it said it would more than double digital revenue this way. Another point focuses on market expansion. The goal here is to quadruple international revenues.
Picking up speed
From the second quarter to the third, Lululemon said the men's business picked up speed at almost the same rate as the women's business. The company also said it's on track to meet revenue growth goals.
The upcoming full-year earnings report may show us where the company stands on its digital revenue goal. Lululemon's digital sales rose 93% year over year in the third quarter. That's after a 157% gain in the previous quarter year over year. International sales are also looking bright. In the most recent quarter, Lululemon reported a 45% increase in revenue there.
So, a year from now, Lululemon may be close to reaching two of the main goals in its strategic plan. And there's a chance it may have already reached the digital revenue goal, considering digital growth of the past couple of quarters.
As for share price, it rose 50% last year. But year to date, Lululemon has slipped about 12%. Even if the stock stagnates or gives up more of the 2020 gain, I'm still optimistic. This retailer successfully navigated the worst of the pandemic. And the clues we have now show it can meet it's 2023 goals. So next year should be bright for this growth stock -- and its investors.