Nike Inc. started cleaning its stats sheet last week and the first time, the Cheap Jordans 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 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 being a retailer-as opposed to a wholesaler-was actually a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own web store were up 19% inside the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% gain in same-store sales. 28% of all sales are direct this coming year, in comparison with 4% five-years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the company is obsessed at this time with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction will likely be left out,” he warned on the conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-at the very least, 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 like 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, 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 correctly, all of this socioeconomic slotting moves just as much merchandise as you can with minimal fuss, without tarnishing the larger brand. And make no mistake: Nike can 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 Cheap Jordan Shoes in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager with a giant spreadsheet, ensuring “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too easy to find, ordering up an exclusive design for China, distributing its best-sellers to all the correct Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping plenty of Chuck Taylors at outlet malls.
Nike has become 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 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 demonstrate that the bet appears to be working, primarily because Nike has been 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 heart of the lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and in its 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 customized shoes on-site in approximately an hour.
To put it briefly, 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 buy in front of the consumer and provide “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the business. “While switching your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that whenever perform, it’s always tmrzsh another phase of growth for your company,” he explained.
In theory, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and her or his willingness to pay-by utilizing 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 shoppers. 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 easy.
For that record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly ahead of Nike Inc., with 31% of their sales coming right from consumers; Cheap Nike Shoes 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 right from consumers. Its challenge is going to be being sure that none of them get too good an arrangement.