Lululemon founder Chip Wilson: Under Armour 'lost it many years ago'

Key Points
  • Lululemon founder Chip Wilson thinks highly still of Lululemon, along with Nike, Adidas, and Chinese apparel manufacturer Anta Sports.
  • He doesn't think as much of Under Armour.
  • Wilson on Monday said he had been selling some of his remaining shares in Lululemon to invest in Anta. He called the company "the Nike of China."
Lululemon founder Chip Wilson on the company's outlook and the retail climate

The founder of leggings maker Lululemon thinks the market for athletic apparel today is a four-way race between Nike, Adidas, Lululemon and Chinese apparel manufacturer Anta Sports.

Notice what company isn't on that list? Under Armour.

"I think Under Armour kind of lost it many years ago," Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, who is no longer involved with the company, said in an interview with CNBC's Courtney Reagan on Monday afternoon. "I think they got stuck in the Sports Authority bankruptcy. And Nike I think changed its business model to move away from wholesale."

"I think with Under Armour moving into Kohl's and being more of a discounter — I think ... hitting a very skinny market I would say of 14- to 18-year-old boys — is not big enough to take the market in the future," Wilson added.

Meantime, Wilson said Lululemon's business model has yet to be "replicated by anyone else."

Lululemon shares have rallied more than 80% over the past 12 months, making it one of the best bets in the entire retail industry. Its same-store sales were up 17% in the latest quarter. Lululemon has a market value of about $30.6 billion.

The company has found tremendous success selling its sleek sports bras and running shorts to women, developing almost cult-like followings. And now it is growing with men, with plans to double men's sales over the next five years, as it also doubles down in international markets like China.

"Lululemon still has a lot of runway," Wilson said.

Under Armour, meantime, has struggled to grow sales on its home turf in North America, as the business has largely stayed away from the athleisure trend that has taken over the U.S. Former CEO Kevin Plank, who stepped aside last week to be replaced by former COO Patrik Frisk, had always said Under Armour planned to stay true to its core, sweat-wicking performance gear.

Under Armour in November slashed its revenue outlook for the full year.

Under Armour also has been much more dependent on wholesale retailers like Kohl's, J.C. Penney and Dick's Sporting Goods to do business, whereas Lululemon is investing more in its own stores and e-commerce operations.

Wilson started Lululemon in 1998, in Vancouver. He stepped down as chairman in 2013 and later from the retailer's board in 2015 after a series of PR mishaps. Lululemon was forced to recall its yoga pants because of a defect that made them see-through. Wilson then in a TV interview said some of the issues could be blamed on women who didn't have the right bodies to fit the pants.

Wilson on Monday said he had been selling some of his remaining shares in Lululemon to invest in Anta. He called the company "the Nike of China."

A representative from Under Armour wasn't immediately available to respond to CNBC's request for comment on this story.

Under Armour's stock is up about 13% from a year ago, bringing its market cap to $8.8 billion. Shares on Monday were down more than 6% to about $20 after JP Morgan cut its price target on Under Armour to $23 from $28.

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