Nike Inc. started cleaning its stats sheet a week ago and for the first time, the sneaker empire declined to report “future orders,” a vital measure of wholesale demand from your 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 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 a retailer-as opposed to a wholesaler-had been a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own web store were up 19% in the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% grow 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 business is obsessed right now with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction is going to be put aside,” he warned over a conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to impress investors-a minimum of, not yet. The overlooked appeal 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 wholesale nike shoes to the right 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, 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 performed correctly, all this socioeconomic slotting moves just as much merchandise as is possible with minimal fuss, while not tarnishing the larger brand. And make no mistake: Nike will it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is really 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 what to ship where. For every sneaker sketching savant in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager using a giant spreadsheet, ensuring “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too readily available, ordering up nike shoes wholesale for China, distributing its best-sellers to all the right Di,ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping a lot 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 conclusion play the fundamental economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, because of the historical manufacturer-to-retail model being discarded-requires an abundance of swagger. But Nike’s numbers demonstrate that the bet seems 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 center of its lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com as well as in its 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 that makes wholesale nike shoes within an hour.
In short, the company is deemphasizing its ready-made network wemjjs retailers to create a more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the final goal is to obtain in front of the consumer and provide “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the market. “While switching your approach is rarely easy, Nike has proven before that whenever we all do, it’s always ignited the next phase of growth for your company,” he explained.
In theory, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and their willingness to pay for-by utilizing its very own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The task will likely be building the mechanism to sort each of the data, and in doing so, the shoppers. In the real world, they sort themselves: Our prime-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 before Nike Inc., with 31% of its sales coming straight 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 directly from consumers. Its challenge will likely be making sure that none of them get too good a deal.