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Lululemon Pushes Up E-Commerce Launch

Lululemon Athletica Inc. is accelerating its e-commerce launch and adding a new category in an effort to offset the slowdown in consumer spending.

Lululemon storefront

Lululemon Athletica Inc. is accelerating its e-commerce launch and adding a new category in an effort to offset the slowdown in consumer spending.

The yoga-inspired athletic brand has “aggressively moved up” its fall 2009 scheduled e-commerce launch, though it declined to disclose the exact date before its March earnings release.

“We think that’s one of the best vehicles to respond to the current crisis,” Lululemon chief executive officer Christine Day said at the ICR XChange Conference last week.

An “added bonus” of the earlier launch is that e-commerce “can absorb the excess product ordered before the company made the decision to slow store expansion,” said William Blair & Co. retail analyst Sharon Zackfia, adding that post-holiday inventories are “very clean.”

The 107-store Vancouver-based retailer has only signed five leases for 2009, down from the 35 per year it had planned.

“The company currently has roughly one million e-mail addresses of customers that can be used as kindling for the e-commerce launch,” Zackfia wrote in a report.

In addition, the estimated $380 million brand is adding a new category for April that it declined to disclose. Management believes it could be as big as its growing running business, which Lululemon will now offer year-round, versus just two seasons, and at deeper levels.