Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Lululemon — and CEO — not in great shape

Lululemon’s new boss has failed to define more than just financial targets.

Shares of the struggling yoga-clothes retailer dropped more than 5 percent Monday, as Wall Street critics blasted a presentation last week from new CEO Laurent Potdevin as overly vague about the company’s turnaround plans.

“Management spoke of building an ‘authentic relationship’ with the guests, creating an ‘authentic global voice,’ ” Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser said.

But Potdevin’s team refused to update the company’s financial targets with hard numbers, and offered “no explanation of what being ‘authentic’ means,” Poser said.

Meanwhile, some investors who attended the meeting said they were surprised to see that Potdevin, in his first major public appearance since he took the helm in January, didn’t exactly look the part of a fitness mogul.

“He was kind of … dumpy,” one shareholder said, noting that Potdevin wore baggy clothes with an untucked shirt that failed to hide a bulging stomach.

“If he’s a competent leader, he’s a competent leader,” another investor said. “But you’ve got to ask whether this guy is really in touch with the mind-set of his core customer in the athletic space.”

A third investor said Potdevin’s less-than-chiseled frame might be a good thing for the brand, given last year’s furor over comments from founder Chip Wilson, who blamed see-through yoga pants partly on oversize customers.

“Quite frankly, some women’s bodies just actually don’t work for” Lululemon’s yoga pants, Wilson had said last November. “It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time.”

A Lululemon spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment Monday.

Lululemon shares lost $2.64, more than 5 percent, to close at $49.07.

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