Nike Inc. started clearing up its stats sheet the other day and the very first time, the sneaker empire declined to report “future orders,” a crucial 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 focused on working directly with consumers and eliminating 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 as being a retailer-instead of a wholesaler-was actually a relative highlight. Sales on Nike’s own web store were up 19% within the recent quarter, while its retail locations notched a 5% grow in same-store sales. 28% of all sales are direct this 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 will likely be left out,” he warned over a conference call Tuesday.
Still, that wasn’t enough to impress investors-at least, not yet. The overlooked beauty of bricks-and-mortar retail is the way well retail chains lend themselves to what economists call price segmentation. Shoemakers including Nike can easily target customers by sending the cheap nike shoes off to the right kind 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 correctly, all of this socioeconomic slotting moves the maximum amount of merchandise as possible with minimal fuss, whilst not tarnishing the bigger brand. To make no mistake: Nike will it correctly. On its face, the Swoosh is 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 sneaker sketching savant in Beaverton, Ore., there’s a mid-level manager with a giant spreadsheet, making certain “Momofuku” Dunks aren’t too easy to find, ordering up nike wholesale shoes for China, distributing its best-sellers to all the correct 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 attempting to make an end play the basic 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 reveal that the bet appears to be working, primarily because Nike continues to be 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 heart of the lineup, meanwhile, sells on Nike.com and then in its 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 features a studio in New York City which makes wholesale nike shoes within an hour.
In a nutshell, the company is deemphasizing its ready-made network wemjjs retailers to create a much more precise targeting mechanism. Tuesday Parker said the end goal is to obtain ahead of the consumer and present “the most personal, digitally connected experiences” in the market. “While altering your approach is never easy, Nike has proven before that whenever we do, it’s always ignited the following phase of growth for your company,” he explained.
Theoretically, Nike can know virtually any customer better-and her or his willingness to pay-by using its own venues and platforms, particularly on its digital properties. The process will likely be building the mechanism to sort all the data, and by doing this, the customers. In real life, they sort themselves: The high-end boutique isn’t right near the cut-rate discount outlet. Inside the virtual world, it’s not too easy.
For the record, Under Armour Inc. is slightly before Nike Inc., with 31% of the sales coming straight from consumers; Adidas AG is slightly behind, with 23% of revenue from retail. At its current pace, Nike will soon be collecting one in three of their sales dollars right from consumers. Its challenge is going to be making sure that none get too good a deal.