Nike Inc. started cleaning up its stats sheet the other day and the very first time, the Cheap Nike Shoes 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 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 mix of EDI and e-commerce. While Nike reported its slowest quarterly sales growth since 2010, its performance being a retailer-rather than a wholesaler-had been a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own web store were up 19% within the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% gain in same-store sales. 28% of all the sales are direct this coming year, in contrast to 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 left behind,” he warned over a conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-at the very least, not. The overlooked appeal of bricks-and-mortar retail is the way well retail chains lend themselves from what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers including 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, 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, this socioeconomic slotting moves just as much merchandise as 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 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 exactly what to ship where. For each Nike Cheap Shoes in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager with a giant spreadsheet, making sure “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too easy to find, ordering up an exclusive design for China, distributing its best-sellers to any or all the right Di.ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping lots of Chuck Taylors at outlet malls.
Nike is now upsetting its very 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 an end run around the essential 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 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 center of its lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and in its own big box stores. As for the 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 creates customized shoes on-site in about one hour.
In short, the company 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 provide “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the industry. “While changing your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that when we all do, it’s always tmrzsh the next phase of growth for your company,” he explained.
In theory, Nike can know any given customer better-and his or her willingness to pay for-by utilizing its own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The process is going to be building the mechanism to sort all the data, and in doing so, the buyers. In the real world, they sort themselves: Our prime-end boutique isn’t right near the cut-rate discount outlet. Within the virtual world, it’s not so easy.
For that record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly before Nike Inc., with 31% of the 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 out of three of the sales dollars directly from consumers. Its challenge will likely be making sure that not one of them get too good a deal.