Nike, Lululemon sales rise in China while luxury spending sputters in the US

With June closing out the fiscal second quarter, few companies posted their earnings results this month. The few that did provided updates on their fiscal performance in the months leading up to the summer.

As with the earlier rounds of first-quarter earnings, fashion companies are finally seeing recovery in China — just as North American consumers pull back on discretionary spending. Interestingly, while Capri Holdings’ revenue fell in the US due to a weakening demand for high-end goods, Lululemon posted impressive growth in the country, with customers still spending on premium athletic wear despite inflation.

Take a look at how brands are navigating these market changes below.

Nike rebounds with double-digit growth in China

In the three months ended May 31, Nike revenue climbed 8% on a currency-neutral basis to $12.8 billion compared to the prior year. However, margins fell due to higher costs associated with production, freight and logistics, as well as an uptick in promotions to get rid of excess inventory. 

Sales rose 5% in its largest market of North America, the slowest rate in four quarters due to a slowing demand from wholesalers. In contrast, Greater China sales showed promising growth, jumping 25% YoY to $1.8 billion — an improvement after three consecutive quarters of revenue decline.

“This quarter left no doubt: Sport is back, consumer confidence is rebounding, and Nike’s brand momentum is growing,” CFO Matt Friend said in an earnings call on Thursday.

Nike welcomed the return of sports to China through marketing activations around the Chinese High School Basketball League, Air Max Day (an annual celebration on March 26 of Nike’s Air Max line), and Tmall Super Brand Day. This led to “the strongest product sell-through in eight seasons, with full-price momentum accelerated by our healthy inventory position,” added Friend.

Nike shows Xiaohongshu users how its Air Max shoes can be styled with “Cybercore” apparel. Photo: Nike’s Xiaohongshu

Earlier this month, the sneaker maker also reported that it achieved double-digit sales during the 618 Shopping Festival — defending its position as the top sports brand on Tmall. Next week, it will kick off its first athlete tour in China since the pandemic, bringing over NBA player Giannis Antetokounmpo to promote his upcoming fifth signature sneaker, the Nike Zoom Freak 5.

“[Sport] will always be our differentiator,” said Nike CEO John Donahoe on the call. “Where other brands strive to grow their slice of the pie, we’re able to grow the pie itself.”

For the fiscal year 2024, the sportswear giant expects to maintain its leadership position and grow revenue by mid-single digits.

Community activations give Lululemon a competitive advantage

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the brand known for yoga apparel announced a solid start to the fiscal year, growing 24% to $2 billion on a constant dollar basis in the three months ended April 30. Net revenue grew 17% in North America and increased 60% internationally.

The latter was driven by an acceleration in Greater China, where revenue surged 79% in Q1. Brand awareness was driven by localizing global campaigns — such as “Get Into It,” a campaign around women’s leggings — and creating market-specific campaigns with Chinese ambassadors. Crucially, the brand connected with consumers through community events like pilates classes, hot yoga and even live music parties

Lululemon Chengdu

In April, Lululemon hosted a live music event in Chengdu to promote its Align leggings. Photo: Lululemon

This community-based model is one of the company’s biggest competitive advantages, said Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald on the June earnings call.

“We engage with guests in ways that are more than just transactional by creating deeper connections and more holistic relationships. This in turn builds our brand awareness, drives purchases, and contributes to our strong financial performance,” he said.

Thanks to the strong performance in Greater China and other regions, Lululemon is on track to deliver its Power of Three x2 growth plan, which aims for the company to hit $12.5 billion in revenue and quadruple international net revenue relative to 2021 by 2026.

Glitzy, celeb-packed events fuel Capri Holdings’ customer acquisition

On May 31, Capri Holdings reported record revenue at Versace and Jimmy Choo for the fiscal year ended April 1, 2023, for a total revenue of $5.61 billion.

During the 52-week period, retail sales of women’s accessories increased 40% YoY at Versace and 20% YoY at Jimmy Choo. The company also added 12.6 million new customers to its database, representing the largest increase in its history. 

However, looking at just the three months to April 1, revenue decreased 10.5% compared to the same period last year to $1.33 billion, with revenue at Versace and Michael Kors both declining by double digits. The group was set back by weak consumer spending in the Americas across all brands.

According to Capri Holdings CEO John Idol, Versace’s women’s ready-to-wear show in Los Angeles, which kicked off Oscars Weekend, helped to boost brand awareness and consumer engagement. Attended by A-listers including Anne Hathaway, Miley Cyrus, and Lil Nas X, the show generated 400 million impressions and contributed to an approximate 40% YoY increase in Versace’s global database.

In China, Capri Holdings focused on reigniting Michael Kors’ “Jet Set” storytelling with a two-day brand experience in Sanya. With 100 friends of the brand invited, including new global brand ambassador Shu Qi, as well as China brand ambassadors Feifei Wang and Bai Li, the event generated an impressive 4 billion impressions across social media and press.

Michael Kors’ Jet Set Sanya experience featured a live presentation of the Spring 2023 Michael Kors Collection and performances by local stars. Photo: Michael Kors

Looking ahead, Idol said both Versace and Michael Kors have tremendous growth potential in Asia as they remain “significantly under-penetrated relative to our peers.” Encouraged by strong growth trends in the region, the firm anticipates fiscal year 2024 revenue will increase by a low-single-digit rate to approximately $5.7 billion.


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