Nike smashes revenue, profit estimates on online sales boom

Nike's net income rose to US$1.52 billion, from US$1.37 billion, a year earlier. PHOTO: REUTERS

CHICAGO (REUTERS) - Nike Inc's online sales of Air Maxes and other shoes in North America drove quarterly profit and revenue ahead of Wall Street estimates and led the world's largest athletic shoe maker to forecast better-than-expected sales for the year.

Shares rose 13 per cent and are set to open on Wednesday at an all-time high of about US$132.

The company's net income rose to US$1.52 billion (S$2.07 billion), or 95 cents per share, from US$1.37 billion, or 86 cents per share, a year earlier.

The results on Tuesday (Sept 22) are a far cry from those of just a quarter ago, when Nike reported a surprise loss of US$790 million as retailers canceled orders and people kept away from Nike stores in key markets like North America, Europe and China.

First-quarter sales in China, where the economy opened from lockdowns much earlier than in other parts of the world, rose 6 per cent, led by factory stores and online sales.

Nike's brick-and-mortar sales have fallen since the Covid-19 pandemic began, as malls and department stores were shuttered around the world. To combat that, the footwear maker has turned its focus to direct-to-consumer sales, especially through its own website and apps.

The brand's digital sales surged 82 per cent in the first quarter ended Aug 31, with at least double-digit rises recorded in all regions. In the prior quarter, Nike reported a 75 per cent increase in online sales - nearly a third of total revenue, a goal Nike had previously set for 2023.

"We know that digital is the new normal. The consumer today is digitally grounded and simply will not revert back," Nike chief executive John Donahoe said.

Nike said it expected fiscal full-year revenue to rise between high single digits and low double digits versus last year, saying second-half sales would be "up significantly," even though first-half growth would be flat. Analysts forecast a fiscal 2021 sales rise of 5.9 per cent, according to Refinitiv IBES.

US retailers including Foot Locker and Dick's Sporting Goods - which canceled shipments in the early days of the pandemic - have begun making orders for inventory in the second half of Nike's fiscal year, analysts say.

Earnings before interest and taxes rose 18 per cent in North America, Nike's biggest market, with footwear sales up 11 per cent to nearly US$3 billion.

"Great quarter, guidance was better than expected, the stock is priced to perfection," said Nate Fischer, chief investment strategist at Strategic Wealth Partners, which does not own Nike shares but has the stock on its watchlist. He warned, however, that the stock would be sold off if it misses any quarters coming up.

Nike shares have risen 16 per cent this year. Nike has gained favor among shoppers this year with investments in marketing itself as a socially conscious company, prominently supporting movements like Black Lives Matter and Time to Vote.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.