Supply Chain Woes Accelerate Change at Nike

The Sneaker Squeeze

  • Nike reports its third-quarter results on March 21
  • In its last two updates in December and September, the company said that supply chain problems were holding back sales growth
  • Nike continues to steer more sales to its own channels, threatening wholesale retailers

In September, Nike told analysts that supply chain problems, including lockdowns at Vietnam sneaker factories, were hampering its ability to increase sales. In December, the company once again cited logistical woes, this time China’s efforts to contain a Covid outbreak. If the supply chain dominates discussion around its results for a third time on Monday, few will be surprised. Covid cases have exploded in China, and lockdown measures threaten both garment manufacturing for export as well as domestic demand. Russia is another wildcard; Nike joined other apparel companies in pulling out of the country following its invasion of Ukraine. Nike executives have confidently maintained that the worst of their supply chain issues are over, and that the market would right itself this year. That prediction is starting to look overly optimistic.

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The turmoil is being felt throughout the sneaker market. Nike’s sales are in a holding pattern roughly where they stood a year ago, as the brand can’t meet demand for its products. Nike’s retail partners are paying an even bigger price: the global sneaker shortage appears to be accelerating Nike’s withdrawal from the wholesale market. Foot Locker shares tumbled more than 30 percent last month when the US sneaker chain said no individual brand would account for more than 60 percent of sales this year (in 2020, Nike accounted for 75 percent of sales). And specialty shops that relied on limited-edition Nikes to bring in crowds of sneakerheads say drops are fewer and further between.

The Bottom Line: What’s happening in the sneaker market is a good example of how temporary supply chain problems can lead to permanent changes. Nike is unlikely to yield back much of the market share it’s taken from wholesalers.

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Ralph Lauren Puts On a Show

  • Ralph Lauren will show its fall collection and Purple Label in New York on March 22
  • This will be the brand’s first in-person runway show in New York since 2019
  • In February, Ralph Lauren reported better-than-expected sales and raised its revenue outlook

Few brands are better at storytelling than Ralph Lauren (its recently announced collection inspired by early-to-mid-20th-century fashion at HBCUs being the latest example). Fashion shows are a key part of maintaining that aura; the brand has conjured up French bistros and Prohibition-era nightclubs from scratch to provide the right backdrop for its clothes. This Tuesday’s show at the Museum of Modern Art, the first in person since 2019, promises more of the same.

The theatrical presentations are part of a wider strategy that reflects Ralph Lauren’s position in the market. The brand, which is projected to top $6 billion in sales in its current fiscal year, spans virtually every price range and sales channel, from e-commerce to factory outlet stores in Alabama to a flagship in Tokyo’s Omotesando shopping district. Outlets and department stores generate more sales than luxury flagships, particularly in America. But shows like this week’s help cement the idea of Ralph Lauren as a luxury brand in consumers’ minds, even if they’re buying a polo shirt on clearance for $40 at Macy’s and not the $400 version sold under the Purple Label.

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The Bottom Line: This week’s show comes a few weeks after Axios reported that Ralph Lauren had held talks with LVMH about a potential acquisition, though a deal appears unlikely at this time.

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