Analyst Says Lululemon Woes Not Over, Maybe Getting Even Worse

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Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU) has recovered handily from its lows, but the yoga and exercise themed apparel maker is still way down from its high. We have seen several analyst upgrades in recent weeks, but one analyst is bucking that trend on Friday.

Credit Suisse’s analyst Christian Buss has put out a new warning on Lululemon. The firm already had a Neutral rating, but the price target in this call was lowered to $46 from $53, versus a closing price of $53.05 on Thursday.

Friday’s report warns of a negative shift via Internet and social media monitoring via blogs, social networks and customer reviews. Another key concern is that a comparable store sales rebound will be delayed and that e-commerce growth likely will slow. Lululemon also supposedly is losing website traffic to competitors.

Even the Facebook activity is turning against it. Buss referred to February 2014 over February 2013 Facebook comments — 50 negative comments with 68 likes, versus two negative comments with six likes. That may not be the greatest highlight in the world, but it means that the company’s woes are not over in social media.

Buss said:

It is becoming more evident that the underlying structural demand environment has shifted at Lululemon. While product issues have begun to moderate, communication missteps continue to drive core customers to disassociate with the brand. As a result, we believe that erosion of productivity at mature stores (49% of total) will delay a comp rebound, margins may suffer as the new management team seeks to reengage customers, and earnings power falls short of consensus expectations.

That does not exactly sound anything like the turnaround that many other analysts have been calling for in the past three weeks or so.

Lululemon shares were down 4.5% to $50.45 in late morning trading on Friday. Its 52-week range is $44.32 to $82.50. This move may not be a formal rating downgrade, but the points brought up sure make it feel like one.