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Mar 30, 2017

Lululemon CEO 'buying as much stock as we can' after shares plunge

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The CEO of Lululemon Athletica (LULU.O) is defending the company’s performance and says the Vancouver-based maker of yoga wear is aggressively buying company shares.

“Right now, we are buying as much stock as we can,” Lululemon CEO Laurent Potdevin told BNN in an interview.

Lululemon shares dropped about 20 per cent after reporting sluggish sales and weaker-than-expected outlook for 2017. It was the worst sell-off for the athletic-wear maker since December 2008 when global markets were gripped by a financial crisis.

The slower sales was felt particularly hard in the company’s online sales, said Potdevin. “We suffered from the visual merchandising not being as strong online.”

The company said it returned to positive operating income growth last year for the first time since 2013, but store traffic has so far dropped this year. Despite the softer-than-expected results, the company is boosting sales at its most productive stores and its recently-launched stores in China are “on fire,” said Potdevin.  “We are still guiding to double-digit growth and earnings growth that is in line with sales,” he said. “I feel that it’s performance that the brand should be very proud of.”

Lululemon is addressing the online problem and will be revamping its online offerings in the coming weeks, Potdevin added. He said the company also has a larger number of product launches and “brand activations” planned for the rest of the year, which should help boost performance.

“I am actually more excited about 2017 ahead of us than I’ve been since 2014,” he said.