Nike Inc. started cleaning its stats sheet a week ago and the very first time, the Cheap Jordans 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 in the B2B E-Commerce 300, says the metric doesn’t matter much anymore, because now it’s centered 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-as opposed to a wholesaler-had been a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own online store were up 19% inside the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% grow in same-store sales. 28% of all sales are direct this year, 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 will be put aside,” he warned on the conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-at the very least, not. The overlooked beauty 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 right shoes to the correct type 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 correctly, all of this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as you can with minimal fuss, without tarnishing the bigger brand. And make no mistake: Nike can it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is 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 Nike Cheap Shoes in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager having a giant spreadsheet, making certain “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too easy to find, ordering up an exclusive design for China, distributing its best-sellers for all the best Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping a lot of Chuck Taylors at outlet malls.
Nike is currently 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 working to make a stop run around the essential economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, given 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 heart of its 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 Ny that makes customized shoes on-site in approximately an hour or so.
In a nutshell, the company is deemphasizing its ready-made network of retailers to generate a more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the final goal is to obtain ahead of the consumer and provide “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the industry. “While changing your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that if we all do, it’s always tmrzsh the next phase of growth for our company,” he explained.
In principle, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and her or his willingness to pay for-by utilizing their own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The process will be building the mechanism to sort all of the data, and by doing this, the customers. In real life, they sort themselves: The top-end boutique isn’t right next to the cut-rate discount outlet. In the virtual world, it’s not so easy.
For that record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly ahead of Nike Inc., with 31% of the sales coming straight from consumers; Cheap Jordans is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will soon be collecting one in three of the sales dollars straight from consumers. Its challenge is going to be being sure that none get too good an agreement.