Nike Inc. started cleaning up its stats sheet the other day and for the first time, the Wholesale Jordans empire declined to report “future orders,” a vital measure of 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 focused on doing business 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 as a retailer-instead of a wholesaler-was 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 sales are direct this coming year, in comparison with 4% 5 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 on a conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-at least, not. The overlooked appeal of bricks-and-mortar retail is just how well retail chains lend themselves to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers like Nike can easily target customers by sending the best shoes to the right sort of store (think: first-class vs. coach, iPhone X vs. iPhone 8, Banana Republic vs. Old Navy). In Nike’s case, it ships expensive, limited 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, all of this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as you can with minimal fuss, while not tarnishing the larger brand. And make no mistake: Nike can it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is actually a design shop supercharged by the type of storytelling its TV commercials, billboards and magazine ads are famous for. But Nike’s real genius isn’t marketing, it’s merchandising: knowing exactly what to ship where. For every Cheap Jordans From China in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager using a giant spreadsheet, making sure “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too readily available, ordering up a unique design for China, distributing its best-sellers for all the correct Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping plenty 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 a stop run around the fundamental economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, due to the historical manufacturer-to-retail model being discarded-requires an abundance of swagger. But Nike’s numbers reveal that the bet seems to be 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 a year ago. The heart of their lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and then in its own big box stores. With regards to cheaper, less-popular kicks, they quietly trickle to the company’s “factory” stores (read: outlet) and onto Amazon.com. Nike even features a studio in New York City which makes customized shoes on-site within an hour or so.
To put it briefly, the organization is deemphasizing its ready-made network of retailers to create a more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the conclusion goal is to get in front of the consumer and present “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the industry. “While switching your approach is rarely easy, Nike has proven before that if we do, it’s always tmrzsh the next phase of growth for the company,” he explained.
In theory, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and his or her willingness to pay-by utilizing its very own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The task will be building the mechanism to sort each of the data, and in doing so, the buyers. In the real world, they sort themselves: Our prime-end boutique isn’t right near the cut-rate discount outlet. In the virtual world, it’s not too easy.
For your record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly before Nike Inc., with 31% of their sales coming directly from consumers; Cheap Nike Shoes From China Free Shipping is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will soon be collecting one out of three of their sales dollars directly from consumers. Its challenge will likely be ensuring that not one of them get too good an agreement.