5 Things Nike, Inc.'s Management Wants You to Know

Nike CEO Mark Parker, Credit: Nike

Despite Nike's (NYSE: NKE  ) solid fiscal fourth quarter results in late June, shares of the athletic apparel behemoth currently sit almost exactly where they started this year. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 has steadily marched almost 10% higher over the same period.

But Nike shareholders shouldn't be running for the hills today. With only a few weeks until Nike's next quarterly report, now's a great time to review what the company has told investors to expect going forward. Here are five things, then, that Nike's management wants you to know.

Nike's growth is far from over
Nike is currently a $68 billion company that grew revenue 10% last fiscal year to $28 billion. So how much longer until the market's law of large numbers spurns that growth? Here's what Nike CEO Mark Parker thinks:

As we continue to get bigger as a company, I am often asked: How can Nike continue to grow? Well, first and foremost, there is absolutely no shortage of growth opportunities for Nike. This has never been clear to me as it is today. When I look within and across our five brands, six geographies and eight categories, I see tremendous untapped potential.

Parker says that not only includes extending Nike's leadership position in running, football, and basketball footwear, but also building on its early foundations in areas like performance apparel and women's. As a largely male-centric brand, for example, Nike maintains a goal of growing its women's revenue by roughly 40% over last year to $7 billion by fiscal 2017.

Another opportunity awaits geographically, especially as Nike resets its business in China. China only represented 10%, or $2.6 billion, of Nike's sales last year. While the company still has work to do in China going forward, management insists recent investments in direct-to-consumer (DTC) growth and fine tuning seasonal flow of product in the region have set the stage for years of sustainable growth down the road.

It's (still) all about the consumer
At the same time, Nike knows it can't achieve meaningful growth without maintaining an out-sized focus on knowing its customers. Parker elaborated:

The key to unlocking this potential is and always has been to focus on the consumer. Our relationship with the consumer is something we need to earn every day. Increasingly this relationship is one to one through the lens of their favorite sport. This is why our Category Offense is such a powerful advantage. The insights we draw from our deep consumer connections fuel our ability to create new products and services that excite and engage.

For reference, Nike's "Category Offense" is essentially a way of compartmentalizing the focus of its business into discrete pieces. Specifically, those include Running, Global Football, Basketball, Men's Training, Women's Training, Action Sports, and Sportswear. With this divide-and-conquer approach, Nike can send a more personalized message to consumers who often tend favor one or two specific categories over the others.

Nike's innovations are "unmatched"
I'm sure Nike's smaller competitor in Under Armour might beg to differ on this one, but Parker unsurprisingly insists:

Our unmatched ability to innovate is how we turn insights from athletes and consumers into amazing products and services that no one else can deliver. [...] The products we launched this year were the culmination of an intense period of creativity for us. But make no mistake, there is much more in the pipeline.

Nike's Vapor Carbon Elite shoe utilizes 3D printing, Credit Nike

No matter what the competition thinks, Nike's innovative resume has been impressive over the last year, including its form-fitting Flyknit tech in its KOBE 9 Elite basketball shoe, Flywire technology to make its shoes lighter, and even the utilization of a 3D-printed cleat plate in its Vapor Carbon Elite football shoes in time for Super Bowl XLVIII.

What's more, Parker says, Nike is investing significant resources into furthering its understanding of consumers through innovative digital initiatives and a "goal to grow the Nike+ community from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of members."

Direct-to-consumer sales are a boon for sales, margins
High margin DTC sales are a great way for retailers to boost profits by effectively cutting out the middleman. It's no surprise, then, that Nike CFO Don Blair repeatedly refers to the DTC segment as one of Nike's "key growth initiatives."

In fact, Nike Brand president Trevor Edwards stated, "Nike Brand DTC revenue was up 27% for the fiscal fourth quarter, with 22% for the year, putting DTC revenue past the $5 billion dollar mark."

Sure enough, Blair later elaborated strength in Nike's DTC business was a primary reason gross margin came in better than expected last quarter. As long as DTC continues to thrive, Nike should enjoy upside in both sales and margins.

E-commerce growth is explosive
Finally, Nike is using its deep pockets to seize another growth opportunity online. According to Parker:

[In] e-commerce, we have made significant investments in infrastructure, capabilities, and geographic expansion to provide a better experience. We know that when consumers shop online, they want a seamless, premium experience and that's our goal for nike.com. Our efforts are paying off. Our online business grew over 40% in fiscal '14, with the growth rate accelerating every quarter throughout the year.

To be sure, e-commerce isn't just for discount retailers, but has become an increasingly important tool for companies like Nike to find incremental high-margin sales. If Nike's recent capital investments in e-commerce continue to foster its streak of online growth, you can bet investors will be there to reap the rewards.

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