Nike Inc. started cleaning up its stats sheet a week ago and for the first time, the Wholesale Jordans empire declined to report “future orders,” a vital way of measuring wholesale demand from the galaxy of retailers who sell the famous kicks. Nike, No. 9 within the B2B E-Commerce 300, says the metric doesn’t matter much anymore, because now it’s centered on doing business directly with consumers and cutting out the middleman.
Nike sells to retailers through a combination of EDI and e-commerce. While Nike reported its slowest quarterly sales growth since 2010, its performance being a retailer-instead of a wholesaler-had been a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own web store were up 19% within the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% grow in same-store sales. 28% of all the sales are direct this season, in contrast to 4% five years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the organization is obsessed at this time with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction is going to be put aside,” he warned over a conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-a minimum of, not even. The overlooked attractiveness of bricks-and-mortar retail is how well retail chains lend themselves as to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers like Nike can simply target customers by sending the correct shoes to the right kind of store (think: first-class vs. coach, iPhone X vs. iPhone 8, Banana Republic vs. Old Navy). In Nike’s case, it ships expensive, exclusive edition sneakers to high-end boutiques, routes its stock Jordans to chains like Foot Locker Retail Inc., and dumps its low-end product and off-key colorways such places as DSW Inc.
If done properly, this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as possible with minimal fuss, without tarnishing the bigger brand. Making no mistake: Nike does it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is a design shop supercharged by the kind of storytelling its TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads are famous for. But Nike’s real genius isn’t marketing, it’s merchandising: knowing what to ship where. For every Nike Cheap Shoes in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager with a giant spreadsheet, making certain “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too simple to find, ordering up an exclusive design for China, distributing its best-sellers to any or all the best Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping a lot of Chuck Taylors at outlet malls.
Nike is now upsetting its own well-oiled applecart. In giving traditional retail the stiff arm, which Nike made official in June, the Oregon empire is tearing up that playbook and working to make an end play the fundamental economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, because of the historical manufacturer-to-retail model being discarded-requires an abundance of swagger. But Nike’s numbers reveal that the bet is apparently working, primarily because Nike continues to be sharpening its digital game.
Sought-after sneakers now ship out via Nike’s own ecosystem of apps, including SNKRS, which it launched early last year. The heart of its lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and in its very own big box stores. As for the cheaper, less-popular kicks, they quietly trickle in to the company’s “factory” stores (read: outlet) and onto Amazon.com. Nike even includes a studio in New York which makes customized shoes on-site in about an hour.
In a nutshell, the business is deemphasizing its ready-made network of retailers to generate an even more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the end goal is to obtain in front of the consumer and offer “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the market. “While switching your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that whenever we all do, it’s always tmrzsh the following phase of growth for our company,” he explained.
In theory, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and her or his willingness to pay for-by using its very own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The process will be building the mechanism to sort each of the data, and by doing this, the shoppers. In real life, they sort themselves: The high-end boutique isn’t right next to the cut-rate discount outlet. Inside the virtual world, it’s not so easy.
For your record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly ahead of Nike Inc., with 31% of its sales coming right from consumers; Cheap Nike Shoes From China Free Shipping is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will quickly be collecting one in three of their sales dollars right from consumers. Its challenge will likely be making sure that none get too good an agreement.