Nike Inc. started clearing up its stats sheet last week and the first time, the sneaker empire declined to report “future orders,” a crucial way of measuring wholesale demand through 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 focused on conducting business directly with consumers and eliminating the middleman.
Nike sells to retailers through a combination 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% in the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% gain in same-store sales. 28% of sales are direct this season, compared with 4% 5 years ago. CEO Mark Parker said the company is obsessed right now with making shopping more personal. “Retailers who don’t embrace distinction will likely be left behind,” he warned over a conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to thrill investors-a minimum of, not even. The overlooked appeal of bricks-and-mortar retail is just how well retail chains lend themselves as to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers including Nike can simply target customers by sending the cheap nike shoes from china free shipping 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 performed correctly, all of this socioeconomic slotting moves just as much merchandise as possible with minimal fuss, while not tarnishing the greater brand. Making no mistake: Nike does it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is actually 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 every sneaker sketching savant in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager using a giant spreadsheet, ensuring “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too simple to find, ordering up nike wholesale shoes for China, distributing its best-sellers for all the right Di,ck’s Sporting Goods Inc. outlets and dumping lots 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 essential economics of price segmentation. The strategy-a bold move, given the historical manufacturer-to-retail model being discarded-requires an abundance of swagger. But Nike’s numbers show 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 last year. The center of the lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and then in its own big box stores. As for the cheaper, less-popular kicks, they quietly trickle to the company’s “factory” stores (read: outlet) and onto Amazon.com. Nike even includes a studio in New York City that makes wholesale nike shoes within an hour.
To put it briefly, the organization is deemphasizing its ready-made network wemjjs retailers to create an even more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the conclusion goal is to get in front of the consumer and offer “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the business. “While altering your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that whenever we all do, it’s always ignited the next phase of growth for the company,” he explained.
In principle, Nike can know any given customer better-and his or her willingness to pay-by utilizing their own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The challenge will be building the mechanism to sort all the data, and in doing so, the customers. In real life, they sort themselves: Our prime-end boutique isn’t right next to the cut-rate discount outlet. Within the virtual world, it’s not easy.
For the record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly in front of Nike Inc., with 31% of its sales coming directly from consumers; Adidas AG is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will be collecting one in three of the sales dollars right from consumers. Its challenge will likely be ensuring that none of them get too good a deal.