Earnings » Revenue radar: Nike’s profits dips ahead of Olympics

Revenue radar: Nike's profits dips ahead of Olympics

The sportswear giant Nike has found itself in uncharted territory, with its recent fiscal 2024 earnings report painting a mixed picture of the brand’s performance.

While the company managed to eke out a 1% increase in full-year revenues, the fourth quarter saw a 2% decline, signaling mounting challenges that have shaken investor confidence. As Nike grapples with softening demand, inventory woes, and intensifying competition, the road ahead appears rocky, but the brand’s storied legacy and innovative prowess suggest the potential for a turnaround.

Financial Performance Overview

  • Fiscal 2024 full-year revenues reached $51.4 billion, a 1% increase on a currency-neutral basis compared to the prior year’s $51.2 billion.
  • Fourth-quarter revenues declined 2% on a reported basis to $12.6 billion, though they remained flat on a currency-neutral basis.
  • NIKE Direct revenues, comprising the brand’s own stores and digital channels, fell 8% in the fourth quarter, with a 10% drop in NIKE Brand Digital and a 2% decline in NIKE-owned stores.
  • Wholesale revenues, however, grew 5% in the fourth quarter and 8% on a currency-neutral basis.
  • Gross margin expanded by 110 basis points to 44.7% in the fourth quarter, driven by strategic pricing actions, lower logistics costs, and reduced warehousing expenses.
  • Net income surged 45% in the fourth quarter to $1.5 billion, while diluted earnings per share reached $0.99, including $0.02 in restructuring charges.
  • For the full fiscal year, net income grew 12% to $5.7 billion, and diluted earnings per share stood at $3.73, including $0.22 in restructuring charges.

The mixed results highlight Nike’s ability to navigate challenging market conditions through cost-cutting measures and pricing strategies, yet the brand’s top-line struggles suggest the need for a more comprehensive turnaround plan.

Stock Performance

Nike’s stock performance has been a rollercoaster ride in recent months, reflecting the company’s uncertain outlook. Following the release of the fiscal 2024 fourth-quarter results, the share price plunged by a staggering 23% in the final week of June, marking the company’s biggest single-day drop in over two decades.

The sharp sell-off was primarily driven by Nike’s surprising guidance for fiscal 2025, which projected a mid-single-digit decline in sales. This reversal from previous expectations of a return to growth in the second half of fiscal 2025 caught investors off guard, leading to a severe loss of confidence.

Analysts have been largely pessimistic about Nike’s near-term prospects, with UBS’s Jay Sole predicting “no quick rebound” and Stifel’s Jim Duffy going so far as to suggest that “management credibility is severely challenged.” The stock’s valuation, which had traded at a premium due to Nike’s brand power, now appears frothy, with a forward price-to-earnings ratio of 24.

Despite the current headwinds, some industry observers remain cautiously optimistic about Nike’s long-term prospects. Morningstar, for instance, has maintained a 5-star rating on the stock and a fair value estimate of $124 per share, suggesting the recent sell-off may present a buying opportunity for long-term investors.

Strategic Initiatives

In the face of its recent challenges, Nike has undertaken several strategic initiatives to reposition the brand and drive sustainable growth.

Product Innovation and Athlete-Centric Approach

At the core of Nike’s turnaround efforts is a renewed focus on serving the athlete through performance innovation. The company has vowed to “put sport back at the center of everything we do,” aiming to deliver cutting-edge products that cater to the needs of its core consumer base.

However, Nike’s attempts at innovation have not always been well-received. The brand faced backlash from Major League Baseball players over new uniform designs that were deemed impractical, as well as criticism from female athletes regarding the design of the U.S. Olympic track and field team’s bodysuit, which was perceived as prioritizing aesthetics over performance.

These missteps underscore the importance of maintaining a deep understanding of athlete preferences and ensuring that product innovations truly enhance athletic performance.

Nike is currently battling a class action lawsuit that seeks to recover the losses of shareholders who were adversely affected by alleged securities fraud between March 2021 and March 2024.

Direct-to-Consumer Expansion and Wholesale Partnerships

Nike has been actively reshaping its distribution strategy, with a focus on expanding its direct-to-consumer (DTC) channels while rebuilding relationships with wholesale partners.

The company’s previous shift towards a more DTC-centric model, which involved limiting wholesale accounts, proved to be a double-edged sword. While it initially boosted the brand’s control and margins, it also opened the door for competitors to fill the void left by Nike’s withdrawal from certain retail channels.

Now, the company is working to strike a better balance, reengaging with wholesale partners while continuing to invest in its own digital platforms and brick-and-mortar stores. This approach aims to leverage the strengths of both distribution channels to reach consumers more effectively.

Cost-Cutting and Operational Efficiency

To navigate the current challenges, Nike has implemented a range of cost-cutting measures, including workforce reductions and operational streamlining. The company has announced plans to achieve $2 billion in cost savings, with the fourth quarter already seeing a 7% decrease in selling and administrative expenses.

These efficiency initiatives, coupled with strategic pricing actions and logistics optimizations, have helped to bolster Nike’s gross margins, which expanded by 110 basis points in the fourth quarter. However, the company acknowledges that the near-term outlook remains challenging, with fiscal 2025 revenue expected to decline in the mid-single digits.

Market and Competitive Landscape

The sportswear industry has become increasingly competitive, with Nike facing challenges on multiple fronts.

Evolving Consumer Preferences

The athleisure trend and the growing popularity of activewear have attracted new competitors, forcing Nike to adapt to changing consumer preferences. Brands like Lululemon, On, and Hoka have found success with innovative products and a strong focus on specific market segments, posing a threat to Nike’s dominance in certain categories.

Intensifying Global Competition

In key markets like China, Nike is grappling with the rise of nationalistic sentiment and the growing presence of domestic sportswear brands. Brands like Li-Ning and Anta have gained significant traction, leveraging their local roots and aligning with consumer preferences.

Disruption in the Performance Running Segment

Nike’s stronghold in the performance running category has been challenged by the emergence of disruptive brands like On and Hoka. These newcomers have gained a loyal following with their innovative shoe designs and marketing strategies, chipping away at Nike’s market share.

Macroeconomic Headwinds

As a global business, Nike is not immune to the broader economic challenges facing the industry. Factors such as inflation, currency fluctuations, and supply chain disruptions have all weighed on the company’s performance, contributing to its cautious outlook for fiscal 2025.

Future Outlook

Despite the current headwinds, Nike remains optimistic about its long-term prospects, with the upcoming Paris Olympics serving as a pivotal moment to showcase the brand’s vision and capabilities.

The company is committed to “creating powerful energy for the Nike brand” through impactful storytelling and brand distinction in the sport. By leveraging the global exposure of the Olympics, Nike aims to reignite consumer enthusiasm and demonstrate its ability to serve athletes through innovative product offerings.

However, the road to recovery will not be without its challenges. Nike must address the underlying issues that have led to its recent struggles, including the need to better align product innovation with athlete preferences, strike the right balance between DTC and wholesale channels, and navigate the evolving competitive landscape.

Investors and industry observers will be closely watching Nike’s progress in the coming quarters, as the brand works to regain its footing and deliver sustainable, profitable growth. The company’s ability to execute its turnaround strategy effectively will be crucial in determining its future trajectory and solidifying its position as the global leader in the sportswear industry.

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