Nike posts first earnings miss in three years as lower margins hit sports apparel giant

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A customer enters a Nike store along the Magnificent Mile shopping district on December 21, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. 
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Nike missed on earnings during its fiscal fourth-quarter for the first time in three years as the retailer reported lower margins that weighed on profits.

Shares dropped nearly 4% in extended trading.

Here’s how the sneaker giant performed during the quarter compared with what Wall Street was anticipating, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Earnings per share: 66 cents vs. 67 cents expected
  • Revenue: $12.83 billion vs. $12.59 billion expected

The company’s reported net income for the three-month period that ended May 31 was $1.03 billion, or 66 cents per share, compared with $1.44 billion, or 90 cents a share, a year earlier. Earnings came in below Wall Street’s expectations, in a rare miss for the retailer.

Sales rose to $12.83 billion, up about 5% from $12.23 billion a year earlier and ahead of Wall Street’s estimates. The company beat revenue estimates for the seventh straight quarter.

For its full fiscal year, Nike’s revenue was $51.2 billion, up 10% compared to the prior year. It beat analysts’ expectations of $50.99 billion, according to Refinitiv.

However, profits for the full year also came in below expectations. The athletic apparel retailer reported earnings per share of $3.23, just short of the $3.24 Wall Street had expected, according to Refinitiv. Nike’s net income for the year was $5.1 billion, down 16% compared to the prior year.

Investors have been eager to see if Nike managed to improve its bloated inventory levels, which have weighed on its margins. Inventories came in at $8.5 billion in the fourth quarter, flat compared with the prior-year period.

Nike’s gross margins fell again during the quarter. They dipped by 1.4 percentage points to 43.6%, but narrowly beat analysts’ expectations of 43.5%, according to StreetAccount. The company attributed the drop to higher product input costs, elevated freight and logistics expenses, higher promotions and unfavorable currency exchange rates.

Other retailers that reported earnings recently noted freight and logistics costs had gone done for them after supply chain headaches subsided, providing a boon for their margins.

In March, executives said on a call with analysts they were “increasingly confident” the company would be able to exit the fiscal year with healthy inventory levels. They noted sales momentum could lead to “even leaner inventory” than anticipated. 

Nike has been relying on its wholesale partners to reduce inventory levels. The push boosted its wholesale revenue over the past few quarters, but didn’t help its margins much.

The company said in March that it expects revenue from that segment to moderate moving forward. It did in the company’s fourth quarter. Sales from Nike’s wholesale segment came in at $6.7 billion for the quarter, down 2% from the year-ago period.

Still, Nike recently restored some of the wholesale relationships that it cut when it first began focusing on its direct-to-consumer strategy in 2020.

Both DSW and Macy’s will start selling a range of Nike merchandise again in October, the retailers both announced in June. 

Macy’s hasn’t received a shipment from Nike since December 2021, but will now resume selling its apparel, including plus size women’s, big and tall men’s, kid’s, bags and other gear, the department store told analysts during an earnings call. Nike’s more premium offerings appear to be off the table for sale at Macy’s.

The decision to bring Macy’s and DSW back under the Nike fold has left some investors wondering if the company is moving away from its direct-to-consumer strategy, which is still bringing in high sales even though it comes at a cost.

Investors have also been curious to see how sales have rebounded in China following Covid lockdowns. During Nike’s fourth quarter, sales in China rose 16% year-over-year to $1.81 billion, ahead of Wall Street’s estimates of $1.68 billion, according to StreetAccount.

While sales jumped significantly, Nike is up against easy comparisons in the region. During Nike’s fiscal fourth quarter in 2022, China was still grappling with lockdowns.

During Nike’s holiday quarter, China sales came in below estimates. The country overall has since seen an uneven path of economic recovery.

In April, retail sales in China rose 18.4% but came in lower than economists’ forecast of 21%.

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