Nike Inc. started cleaning up its stats sheet a week ago and the first time, the Wholesale Nike Shoes 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 working directly with consumers and removing 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% inside the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% grow in same-store sales. 28% of sales are direct this coming year, in contrast to 4% 5 years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the company is obsessed today with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction is going to be left behind,” he warned on the conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to impress investors-a minimum of, not. The overlooked attractiveness of bricks-and-mortar retail is just how well retail chains lend themselves as to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers including Nike can certainly target customers by sending the best shoes to the correct 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 done properly, all this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as you can with minimal fuss, while not tarnishing the greater brand. And make no mistake: Nike does it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is really a design shop supercharged by the sort 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 each Nike Shoes Cheap 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 a unique design for China, distributing its best-sellers to all the correct Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping a lot 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 working to make a conclusion play the fundamental 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 show 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 last year. The heart of the lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and then in its 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 has a studio in New York that 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 produce an even more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the conclusion goal is to buy in front of the consumer and provide “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the industry. “While switching your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that when we all do, it’s always tmrzsh the next phase of growth for your company,” he explained.
In principle, Nike can know any given customer better-and their willingness to pay for-by using their own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The task will likely be building the mechanism to sort each of the data, and by doing this, the shoppers. In real life, they sort themselves: Our prime-end boutique isn’t right next to the cut-rate discount outlet. Inside the virtual world, it’s not too easy.
For the record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly in front of 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 soon be collecting one out of three of its sales dollars right from consumers. Its challenge will be being sure that none of them get too good an agreement.