Sports Bras Are Making Lululemon a Lot of Money

After a profitable third quarter, the athleisure retailer has bras, as well as tops and tanks, to thank.
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Photo: Andrew Chin/Getty Images

Photo: Andrew Chin/Getty Images

Just Wednesday, Business of Fashion reported that a shift from yoga pants may have left a number of Lululemon Athletica investors concerned about the future of the "athleisure" category. With fierce competition from brands that, after a widespread push in 2016, now include Nike, Under Armour, Puma, Reebok and Adidas, Lululemon's yoga apparel may not have the same command across the overall activewear market it once did. BoF even raised the question of whether leggings, once the Vancouver-based company's bread and butter, "are falling out of fashion."

But Lululemon boasts another key category — sports bras — that significantly contributed to a fiscally successful third quarter. In the three months ending on Sept. 30, the company reported its net sales increased by 13 percent to $544.4 million, a dramatic $64.7 million lift compared to the same period last year. 

On an earnings call on Wednesday, CEO Laurent Potdevin attributed this growth to several factors, including design innovation, international expansion and its flourishing men's category. But in terms of product, its women's sports bras were the key money makers. Potdevin noted that while Lululemon experienced a mid-single digit bump in women's tops and bottoms, sports bras grew "more than 20 percent" — which is, by all means, a lot for any single category. Potdevin also noted that the company will be coming out with "fantastic innovation" regarding its bras in 2017.

Tops and tanks served as critical categories as well, due to a layering trend cropping up across activewear. Potdevin specifically called out its Sculpt Tank, a lightweight, shelf-less top, which "pairs beautifully" with its Free to be Zen and Energy Bras.

You may recall this year's earlier success of Lululemon's "ABC (anti-ball crushing)" line for men, a technical range designed to "give the boys some room" that was bringing in quite a bit of cash for the company. It now looks like its sports bras have eclipsed that, with Lululemon well on its way to achieve its five-year progress plan of "doubling" revenue to $4 billion by 2020.

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