Nike Inc. started cleaning up its stats sheet the other day and the very first time, the sneaker empire declined to report “future orders,” a crucial way of measuring wholesale demand through the galaxy of retailers who sell the famous kicks. Nike, No. 9 inside the B2B E-Commerce 300, says the metric doesn’t matter much anymore, because now it’s dedicated to conducting business directly with consumers and removing the middleman.
Nike sells to retailers through a mix of EDI and e-commerce. While Nike reported its slowest quarterly sales growth since 2010, its performance as being a retailer-rather than a wholesaler-was a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own online 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 season, compared with 4% five-years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the organization is obsessed today with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction is going to be put aside,” he warned on the conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-at least, not yet. The overlooked beauty of bricks-and-mortar retail is how well retail chains lend themselves as to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers including Nike can simply target customers by sending the cheap nike 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 these places as DSW Inc.
If performed correctly, this socioeconomic slotting moves as much 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 each sneaker sketching savant in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager having a giant spreadsheet, making certain “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too simple to find, ordering up cheap nike shoes wholesale for China, distributing its best-sellers to any or all the right Di,ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping plenty of Chuck Taylors at outlet malls.
Nike has become upsetting their 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 attempting to make an end run around the fundamental economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, because of the historical manufacturer-to-retail model being discarded-requires no shortage of swagger. But Nike’s numbers show that the bet appears 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 this past year. The center of their lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com as well as in their own big box stores. With regards to cheaper, less-popular kicks, they quietly trickle into the company’s “factory” stores (read: outlet) and onto Amazon.com. Nike even has a studio in New York City which makes wholesale nike shoes in approximately one hour.
In a nutshell, the organization is deemphasizing its ready-made network wemjjs retailers to generate an even more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the end goal is to get ahead of the consumer and provide “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the business. “While altering your approach is rarely easy, Nike has proven before that if we all do, it’s always ignited the following phase of growth for the company,” he explained.
Theoretically, Nike can know any customer better-and their willingness to pay for-by using its own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The challenge is going to be building the mechanism to sort all the data, and in doing so, the buyers. In real life, they sort themselves: The top-end boutique isn’t right next to the cut-rate discount outlet. Inside the virtual world, it’s not easy.
For that record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly before Nike Inc., with 31% of the sales coming right from consumers; Adidas AG is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will be collecting one out of three of its sales dollars straight from consumers. Its challenge will likely be being sure that none of them get too good an arrangement.