Nike (NKE 3.24%) is set to release fiscal third-quarter 2016 results next Tuesday, March 22, 2016. With shares of the athletic footwear and apparel juggernaut down slightly so far in 2016 despite last quarter's solid showing, investors will be looking for Nike's year-over-year revenue growth to accelerate in the face of stubborn economic headwinds.
Last quarter, Nike's revenue rose 4% year over year on a reported basis, to $7.69 billion, but would have climbed a much more impressive 12% had it not been for the negative effects of foreign exchange. At the time, however, Nike also revealed worldwide futures orders for NIKE brand footwear and apparel through April 2016 were up 15% year over year, and 20% on a currency-neutral basis. As such, revenue this quarter should be up in the high-single- to low-double-digit percentage range, and currency-neutral revenue should grow in the mid-teens.
That said, investors should also keep an eye on gross margin, which management warned will decline around 50 basis points. According to CEO Mark Parker, this is primarily a product of Nike's efforts to clear "high-quality but excess inventory" in North America, while at the same time allowing them to sustain their innovative product pipeline for the remainder of the fiscal year. To be sure, Nike also insisted gross margin for the full fiscal year 2016 should expand by roughly 50 basis points over fiscal 2015, which indicates the pullback will be temporary as the metric bounces back nicely into the fiscal fourth quarter.
Zooming back out to the drivers of Nike top line, look for continued strength in Nike Brand revenue, which last quarter achieved double-digit growth across every geography and "most" key categories. That will include higher-margin Nike brand direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales, which climbed 26% year over year in fiscal Q2 thanks to new locations, healthy comps, and 49% growth from Nike.com.
Meanwhile, don't be surprised if we see revenue decline once again from the Converse brand -- which Nike astutely acquired for just $305 million in 2003 -- on a year-over-year basis. Last quarter, Converse sales fell 5% year over year at constant currency, as strong growth in North America was offset by declines in Europe. This might sound troubling, but keep in mind CFO Andy Campion warned two quarters ago that Converse's quarterly year-over-year comparisons would be "uneven" in the near term as Nike shifts the brand to a more direct operating model overseas. Campion also elaborated during last quarter's call that the company is currently "more actively leveraging NIKE capabilities and innovation platforms to diversify the Converse product portfolio, as well as elevate our operating capabilities in recently transitioned international markets."
Finally, listen for additional clarification from Nike looking forward. This will include not only any revisions to gross margin and revenue growth in the current quarter, but also perspective on growth in futures orders, which last quarter climbed 15% (20% at constant currency) for the five months ended April 2016. This should give investors a pretty good leading indicator of whether the company will be able to close fiscal 2016 on a high note by maintaining its guidance for full fiscal-year revenue growth in the mid-single-digit percentage range.
To be fair, that's not to say failing to live up to that guidance in the near term would break Nike's long-term growth story. Recall that this past October Nike unveiled a new goal of achieving $50 billion in annual revenue by the end of fiscal 2020, good for 63% growth from the $30.6 billion it gathered in fiscal 2015. And this past November, Nike pre-empted its fiscal Q2 report by approving its 14th consecutive annual dividend increase, a four-year $12 billion share repurchase program, and a 2-for-1 stock split that was implemented in December.
With regard to the first two items, any resulting pullbacks could allow Nike investors to maximize the benefits of reinvested dividends and shares bought back at a lower price. So when next week's report hits the wire -- and barring any significant negative surprises -- it seems investors with the time and patience to watch Nike's long-term ambitions unfold are facing a win-win situation.