VANCOUVER, Canada — In Lululemon Athletica Inc.’s quest to get more guys to buy its clothing, the company is focusing on a very specific area of men’s comfort.
The company has made inroads with a product called ABC pants, Chief Executive Officer Laurent Potdevin said Thursday on a conference call. ABC, short for “anti-ball crushing,” refers to a design that “gives you and the family jewels room to breathe,” Lululemon says on its website. The pants helped drive a 16 percent increase in same-store sales last quarter in the men’s business, Potdevin said.
Lululemon is using a lifestyle approach to chase what it calls a $1 billion opportunity in men’s clothing. The retailer offers clothes for men’s workouts, commutes and the office, divided into sweat, post-sweat and no-sweat categories. As it adds more lengths, colors and styles to the men’s assortment, Lululemon is looking to expand the collection’s real estate to boost sales.
“They’ve been able to give the man a clearer message,” Oliver Chen, a New York-based analyst at Cowen & Co., said in an interview. “As they add to the assortment, it feels overall more masculine, it feels like it has a better focal point.”
Lululemon opened its first store for men in New York’s SoHo neighborhood on Nov. 28 — on Black Friday, which follows Thanksgiving -- and welcomed customers with beers and cold- brewed coffee. The 1,600-square-foot space (149 square meters) has a tailor to customize shorts with a customer’s preferred lining while he waits. The store has hosted several events since opening.
More store space could spur the pace of growth. Six months after one Canadian store was expanded, the men’s business has jumped 90 percent, Chief Financial Officer Stuart Haselden said on the conference call. Men’s same-store sales rose 16 percent in the fourth quarter, compared with an 11 percent gain in the third quarter and 5 percent in the second quarter. As of November, men’s products have made up about 17 percent of the total store assortment.
“We’re seeing the potential for expanded store footprints, particularly as we have a growing men’s business that we’re now working to ensure that we’re presenting that in the strongest manner and making sure we have enough space to accommodate the experiences in a high-quality way,” Haselden said.
Lululemon will consider some flagship-sized locations in markets that may have larger opportunity and otherwise test expanded formats, he said. That would give more room to display men’s clothing.
The ABC pants are specifically designed for comfort, with a slim-fit style that “ensures your pants and your bike chain won’t cross paths,” according to the company’s website.
As Lululemon continues to refine its men’s products, the brand has the potential to appeal to men looking for multifunctional clothing, Cowen’s Chen said.
“A guy likes simplicity,” said Chen, who has the equivalent of a buy rating on the shares. “You can wear some of this to work, and it’s comfortable.”
By Lindsey Rupp, with assistance from Niamh Ring; editors: Nick Turner, James Callan.