Canada comes out on top, as Lululemon ranks first in a report measuring North American apparel company profitability. It outranks such prominent enterprises as Ralph Lauren, Urban Outfitters, Nike and Nordstrom. Interestingly, the company with the second-highest profit margin is also Canadian, being an apparel company based out of Montreal.
American publication Apparel Magazine ranks apparel companies based on two criteria: they must have at least $100 million in annual sales, and they must be publicly traded on a U.S. stock exchange. Profit margins were determined for the most recent fiscal year, and Lululemon's came out on top at 17.57%.
Lululemon's profit margin was down from the previous year, when it measured a more robust 19.8%. However, Lululemon ranked second last year, behind Chinese menswear brand Zuoan, which slipped to fourth place this year.
According to the study, Lululemon's sales jumped 16.11% from last year, with its net income increasing by 2.98%. Sales of almost US $1.6 billion saw a net income of US $280 million. Next year's profitability may be less, however, as the company struggles with both management and public perception issues.
Lululemon bested several large American companies, in terms of percentage profitability. For instance, TJX (which owns Canadian off-price retailers Winners and HomeSense, as well as Marshalls) ranked 14th with a profitability of 7.79%. TJX was the highest-selling of the 50 top retailers in terms of sheer numbers, with sales in excess of US $27 billion. Nordstrom's profit margin was 6.03%, with sales in excess of US $12 billion. Fashion brand Ralph Lauren ranked seventh for profitability, with a 10.42% return on sales estimated to be almost US $7.5 billion.
According to the report, the highest overall sales increases were by American conglomerate Ascena Retail Group (owner of retailers Lane Bryant, dressbarn, maurices, Justice and Catherines), increasing 40.6% between 2013 and 2014. Net income was down, however, at 3.21% from 4.84% in the previous year.
Impressively, the second most productive apparel company in the top 50 is also Canadian. Montreal-based Gildan Activewear Inc. saw profit margins of 14.66%, up from 7.62% the year before. With annual sales in excess of $2 billion, Gildan manufactures and markets branded clothing, including undecorated blank activewear such as t-shirts, sport shirts and fleeces, which are subsequently decorated by screen printing companies with designs and logos. The company also supplies branded and private label athletic, casual and dress socks to retail companies in the United States, including Gold Toe Brands, PowerSox, SilverToe, Auro, All Pro, and the Gildan brand. The company also manufactures and distributes Under Armour and New Balance brand socks, as well as Mossy Oak outdoor clothing products. Gildan has approximately 34,000 employees worldwide and owns and operates manufacturing facilities in Central America and in the Caribbean.
The entire Apparel Magazine report can be downloaded here.
Despite its profitability, Lululemon's share price is currently less than half of what it was in October. Its currently trading at less than US $39 per share, while in October it traded as high as US $77.75.