Lululemon plans stores just for men

It already sells products aimed at them, but it's preparing a risky move to take that business to a new level.

By Jonathan Berr Jun 14, 2013 1:03PM
Pedestrians walk past a Lululemon Athletica store in New York on March 19, 2013 (© Lucas Jackson/Newscom/Reuters)Lululemon (LULU) has made a fortune producing yoga pants that millions of women wear as they try to find inner peace. Now the Canadian company hopes more men will follow it down the path toward enlightenment.

The chain, which recently fixed a manufacturing defect that made its yoga pants bottoms too sheer, plans to open stand-alone stores for men by 2016, Bloomberg News quotes CEO Christine Day as saying. Men already have plenty to choose from at Lululemon stores, including $88 tops and $32 boxer shorts.

Men's goods now account for less than 10% of Lululemon's sales, but demand for them has been growing faster than for the rest of its business, the news service says.

Investors are growing concerned about Lululemon's growth prospects in the wake of CEO Day's unexpected retirement, even though the company reported better-than-expected earnings and gave bullish guidance for the current quarter. It continues to face fierce competition from rivals such as Under Armour (UA) and Nike (NKE), which may feel emboldened by the negative publicity around Lululemon's sheer pants, a quality-control problem that wasn't Lululemon's first.

The new expansion strategy is risky. As Bloomberg noted, many fashion brands that appeal mainly to women have failed to attract male buyers, sometimes spectacularly so. Who can forget New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady's odd endorsement of Deckers Outdoor's (DECK) Ugg boots, which USA Today said are "worn predominantly by suburban women, sorority girls and men who get them as a gift and forget to return them"?

Jonathan Berr does not own shares of the listed stocks. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.

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