Nike Inc. started cleaning its stats sheet last week and 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 centered on conducting business directly with consumers and cutting out 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 actually 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 all the sales are direct this coming year, compared with 4% 5 years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the business is obsessed today with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction will likely be put aside,” he warned on the conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to impress 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 such as Nike can easily target customers by sending the right shoes off 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, 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 in such places as DSW Inc.
If done properly, all this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as is possible with minimal fuss, whilst not tarnishing the greater brand. And make no mistake: Nike can 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 Cheap Shoes in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager having a giant spreadsheet, ensuring “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too simple to find, ordering up a special 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 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 attempting 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 an abundance of swagger. But Nike’s numbers show 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 the lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and in its very own big box stores. When it comes 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 in approximately an hour.
In short, the organization is deemphasizing its ready-made network of retailers to produce a much more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the end goal is to buy ahead of the consumer and offer “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the market. “While altering your approach is rarely easy, Nike has proven before that when we do, it’s always tmrzsh the next phase of growth for our company,” he explained.
In principle, Nike can know any given customer better-and her or his willingness to pay for-by utilizing its own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The task will likely be building the mechanism to sort all of the data, and by doing this, the buyers. In the real world, 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 the record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly before Nike Inc., with 31% of their sales coming straight from consumers; Cheap Nike Shoes From China Free Shipping is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will be collecting one in three of its sales dollars directly from consumers. Its challenge will likely be ensuring that none get too good a deal.