Canada's Lolë women's wear expanding, could challenge Lululemon
* Montreal-based Coalision expanding Lolë concept
* Lululemon faces more competition in women's active wear
By Allison Martell
Nov 23 (Reuters) - A small, privately owned Canadian women's active wear brand is pushing further into the United States, where it could challenge yogawear retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc in its main growth market.
Montreal-based Coalision Inc's Lolë, which has 11 stores in North America and Europe, is planning to open five new locations in 2013, and hopes to hit 50 in the next five years, the company said.
Lolë's only U.S. locations are a temporary, or "pop-up", store in Santa Barbara, California, and one outlet in the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan.
"It's too small, so we're going to close it and try to get in somewhere else," Chief Executive Bernard Mariette said on Friday of the Tribeca store, which opened in 2010.
"Now we've proven it's more than working, so we are going to open it in a place where the rent is expensive."
The brand is also distributed through more than 2,000 retail outlets. Last year Coalision's sales were C$85 million, boosted by Lolë, which has grown sales 60 percent in the last two years.
Coalision's other major brand is ski-focused Orage. Lolë sells yoga and running gear at premium prices, much like Lululemon, but it offers more outerwear and ski apparel.
The brand has been generating some buzz in Canada, and a short piece on its expansion from fashion magazine Flare asked: "Is Lolë the next Lululemon?"
Vancouver-based Lululemon's colorful, form-hugging clothing is ubiquitous in Canada, and the brand is expanding rapidly in the United States.
Founded in 1998, Lululemon made yoga apparel fashionable with its signature $98 pants. But it is facing rising competition from heavyweight brands such as Nike Inc.
Lululemon's shares were down 0.8 percent at C$70.04 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Friday. The stock is up nearly 50 percent so far this year.
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