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Lululemon's bleak holiday-quarter targets overshadow strong Q3

By Annett Mary Manoj and Ananya Mariam Rajesh

(Reuters) -Lululemon Athletica Inc on Thursday forecast fourth-quarter results below expectations, striking a cautious tone for the holiday season and sending shares of the premium apparel retailer down 2% in extended trading.

The forecast, after a strong third-quarter show, mirrors sentiments from other U.S. retailers such as Walmart, Best Buy and Kohl's which have hinted at a more wary consumer and a choppy start to the crucial holiday quarter.

Although Thanksgiving weekend sales showed optimism among customers, some have either largely cut back on spending or are waiting to shop closer to Christmas to get better deals.

"The company is not giving up on pricing while their competitors are...especially during this holiday centered season," Dave Wagner, portfolio manager at Aptus Capital Advisors said.

He added, "the consumer is starting to hurt a little bit and even though they (Lululemon) focus more on the high-end consumer, they are probably seeing just a little less top line sales right now."

Lululemon has stuck to full-price selling in an effort to drive revenues.

It beat third-quarter results and raised annual forecasts, which bring in focus the buoyant demand for the company's comfortable clothing as well as accessories like belt bags.

"We did experience some very strong performance during our Cyber Five period," said CFO Meghan Frank in a post earnings call and added the company was "mindful of the macroeconomic environment" heading into fourth quarter, which has led it to guide more prudently.

The company expects fourth-quarter net revenue between $3.14 billion and $3.17 billion, below analysts' average estimate of $3.18 billion, according to LSEG data.

Fourth-quarter profit forecast between $4.85 and $4.93 per share came in below expectations of $4.94 per share.

Insider Intelligence analyst Rachel Wolff said "the retailer's solid foot traffic trends during Black Friday indicate that the company is well-positioned to maintain its momentum during the holiday quarter."

Lululemon expects full-year 2023 profit between $12.34 and $12.42 per share and revenue between $9.55 billion and $9.59 billion.

(Reporting by Annett Mary Manoj and Ananya Mariam Rajesh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)