Nike Inc. started cleaning its stats sheet last week and for the first time, the Cheap Nike Shoes empire declined to report “future orders,” a crucial way of measuring wholesale demand from the galaxy of retailers who sell the famous kicks. Nike, No. 9 in the B2B E-Commerce 300, says the metric doesn’t matter much anymore, because now it’s focused on working directly with consumers and cutting out the middleman.
Nike sells to retailers through a mixture 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 online store were up 19% within the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% gain in same-store sales. 28% of all the sales are direct this season, in comparison with 4% five years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the business is obsessed today with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction is going to be left out,” he warned on the conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to impress investors-a minimum of, not. The overlooked appeal of bricks-and-mortar retail is how well retail chains lend themselves as to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers such as Nike can simply target customers by sending the best 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 in such places as DSW Inc.
If performed correctly, this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as possible with minimal fuss, without tarnishing the bigger brand. And make no mistake: Nike does it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is actually 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 Cheap Jordan Shoes in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager with a giant spreadsheet, making sure “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too easy to find, ordering up a unique design for China, distributing its best-sellers for all the best Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping lots of Chuck Taylors at outlet malls.
Nike is currently 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 trying to make a stop play the basic economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, due to the historical manufacturer-to-retail model being discarded-requires no shortage of swagger. But Nike’s numbers reveal that the bet is apparently working, primarily because Nike has become sharpening its digital game.
Sought-after sneakers now ship out via Nike’s own ecosystem of apps, including SNKRS, which it launched early this past year. The center of the lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com as well as in their own big box stores. When it comes to cheaper, less-popular kicks, they quietly trickle to the company’s “factory” stores (read: outlet) and onto Amazon.com. Nike even includes a studio in Ny which makes customized shoes on-site in about an hour or so.
To put it briefly, the company is deemphasizing its ready-made network of retailers to generate a more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the conclusion goal is to buy ahead of the consumer and offer “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the industry. “While switching your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that if we do, it’s always tmrzsh the following phase of growth for the company,” he explained.
Theoretically, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and their willingness to pay-by utilizing their own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The process will likely be building the mechanism to sort each of the data, and by doing this, the buyers. In real life, they sort themselves: The top-end boutique isn’t right near the cut-rate discount outlet. Inside the virtual world, it’s not so easy.
For your record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly before Nike Inc., with 31% of its sales coming directly from consumers; Cheap Jordans is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will quickly be collecting one out of three of the sales dollars straight from consumers. Its challenge will be ensuring that none get too good an arrangement.