“We’re ready to build upon our success and embark on the next phase of growth at Lululemon to realize the full potential of our brand,” chief executive Calvin McDonald told analysts Wednesday. “We believe Lululemon has a unique opportunity to push beyond traditional expectations."
Increasingly, that means winning over men who shop at competitors such as Nike and Under Armour. Lululemon recently introduced two styles of boxers — priced between $28 and $38 — and plans to expand its lineup of men’s running gear in the coming months. The company, which last year had $3.3 billion in revenue, says it expects men’s business to reach $1 billion a year by 2020.
“Men’s is one of our largest and most exciting areas of future growth,” McDonald said in an earnings call with analysts last month. The company, he said, wants to help customers “achieve their goals of living the ‘sweatlife.’ ”
Executives say men are looking for well-fitting but comfortable pants they can wear to the office. Lululemon promotes its ABC pants, which are made with moisture-wicking, stretchy materials and designed to give men a little more room in the crotch.
The products aren’t the only attraction. Unlike some of its larger competitors, analysts said Lululemon makes shopping simple by offering a limited number of products.
“Shopping at Lululemon is quick and easy, and that is often very attractive to men,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail. “It’s not like walking into a Nike store where you’re overwhelmed by lots of different products for lots of different sports.”
That was certainly the case for Raj Nijjer, vice president of marketing for tech start-up Yotpo, who says he was tired of sifting through racks of workout wear at Nordstrom. He happened into one of Lululemon’s 440 stores last fall, “tried on a bunch of stuff and bought it all at full price.” His favorites, he said, are the company’s pants and polos, which fit well and don’t wrinkle.
“It’s great because it’s not a giant hodgepodge of options,” said Nijjer, 41, who lives in New York. “After a long day, the last thing I want to do is make another freaking decision.”
Nijjer said some of his friends are still skeptical of the brand, which rose to popularity for its women’s clothing, but he’s slowly starting to see more men wearing Lululemon at the Manhattan Equinox where he works out.
“There’s an amazing community of folks who like Lululemon,” he said. “It sounds cliche, but we really do high-five each other when we walk by in our Lululemon. It’s beyond gender at this point."
Sales of men’s pants and shorts at Lululemon rose 28 percent last year, compared to 21 percent growth for women’s bottoms. Even so, it’s still women who are doing much of the buying: “About 40 percent of our men’s product sales today are to women,” Stuart Haselden, Lululemon’s chief operating officer, told Quartz in January. “It’s an important catalyst for our men’s business, and has been in building it to where it is today.”
Lululemon has become a retail darling in recent years by tapping into Americans’ growing love for “athleisure.” Annual revenue grew 24 percent to $3.3 billion last year, while profits rose 30 percent to $1.8 billion. Earlier this week, McDonald told the Wall Street Journal he has no plans to mark down the company’s $100 yoga pants to compete with lower-priced retailers.
The company is also rapidly expanding into Asia and Europe, and said it expects international revenue to quadruple by 2023.
Its success abroad, the company said Wednesday, “demonstrates that the sweatlife translates across cultures and geographies."