Lululemon Athletica Inc. ’s influential founder, Chip Wilson, is in the final stretch of his management role at one of Canada’s most successful retailers.
Vancouver-based Lululemon said in a brief release late Friday that Mr. Wilson, who founded the trendy yoga-inspired retailer in 1998, plans to resign as chief innovation and branding officer effective Jan. 29.
But he will stay on as chairman of the company’s board of directors.
Mr. Wilson, 55, said he feels comfortable leaving the company in the hands of chief executive officer Christine Day, who was recently named Report on Business magazine’s chief executive officer of the year.
“I remain deeply committed to the company’s continued success and given the strength we’ve built into the organization over the past three years, I feel comfortable leaving the company with Christine Day at the helm of a world class management team whom I fully believe will continue to elevate our world,” Mr. Wilson said in a statement.
After an early career as founder and CEO of a surf-skate and snowboard clothing company, Mr. Wilson created Lululemon and ran every facet of the company as it grew rapidly into an international retailer.
In the Canadian Business magazine annual survey of the richest Canadians, Mr. Wilson was the fastest rising climber on the Rich 100 list in 2011, jumping to 15 from 49 in 2010.
Mr. Wilson, a University of Calgary economics graduate, owns about 10 per cent of Lululemon, a company with a current stock value of about $5.6-billion.
Ms. Day said the laid-back, community-oriented and self-motivational culture that Mr. Wilson created will continue at the company, which has branded itself as not only a clothing brand but a lifestyle choice.
“Chip has created a legacy that has inspired the world and the mantle of leadership and care for the culture, values and mission of Lululemon is now in our hands,” she said.
“I am proud to be leading Lululemon and excited about our future.”
Lululemon, a household name in its native Canada, is growing in popularity in the United States and Australia, where the company continues to open new stores.
While other specialty clothing retailers struggle in a tough economy, Lululemon has consistently boosted quarterly profits and revenues.
It operates on a scarcity model that leaves its customers hungry for its fashionable and form-fitting athletic wear and accessories that often disappear from shelves.
Lululemon has said several times that it plans to fix its inventory troubles as it struggles to keep up with demand. But that short supply also means it can avoid end-of-season markdowns.
The company’s stock has been soaring as it delivers quarter upon quarter of results that beat analysts expectations.
However, even though its profit rose 51 per cent to $38.8-million (U.S.) in its most recent quarter, its shares took a beating as revenue came in at $230.2-million, below the $235.7-million analysts expected.
The company said it expects revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter will be even higher, rising to a range of $327-million to $332-million – putting the company on track to do better for the full year than it had previously anticipated.
It also estimated diluted earnings per share will be in a range of 40 cents to 42 cents per share in the fourth quarter.
Lululemon opened its first store in 1998 in Vancouver and has expanded to 151 stores in the past decade.
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