The Beaverton, OR.-based footwear and apparel company said on Thursday revenue increased 5% year-over-year to $8.4 billion in its fiscal 2016 first quarter, and earnings per share jumped 23% to $1.34. Analysts expected Nike to post $8.22 billion in revenue and earnings of $1.19 per share, according to the consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.
Nike also said worldwide futures orders for Nike brand athletic footwear and apparel scheduled for delivery from September 2015 through January 2016 rose by 9% compared to the same period last year. Futures orders declined in only two markets -- Central and Eastern Europe and emerging markets -- but climbed in North America, Western Europe and Japan. Future orders experienced the most growth in China, up 22%, where revenues also increased the most of any market, up 30%.
"While we are very mindful of the macroeconomic volatility in China, our brand has never been stronger and our marketplace has never been more healthy. We have momentum cross nearly all key categories ... as well as continued strength in our DTC [direct to consumer] business," said Nike CFO Andy Campion in an earnings call following the announcement.
On a currency-neutral basis, Nike's numbers looked even better. Excluding currency changes, revenues were up 14%, and futures orders 17%.
"Fiscal 2016 is off to a great start," said Nike President and CEO Mark Parker in the earnings announcement. "Our relentless place of growth is driven by our proven strategy of putting the consumer first, obsessing innovation in everything we do and leveraging our powerful portfolio. We're well-positioned to continue to deliver long term growth that is both sustainable and profitable."
Gross margins, spurred by higher average selling prices and continued growth in the higher margin direct to consumer business, expanded by 90 basis points to 47.5%. Inventories climbed 10% from a year ago to $4.4 billion, driven by an 8% increase in wholesale unit inventories.
During its fiscal first quarter, Nike also repurchased 5.5 million of its shares for $588 million -- part of its larger four-year, $8 billion buyback program that has been in place since 2012.
Nike shares opened up about 7% on Friday.
Here's what analysts are saying following the results and earnings call:
Deutsche Bank analyst Dave Weiner (Buy, PT $140)
"Nike put up yet another quarter of very strong results with revenues, gross margin, and EPS all comfortably surpassing consensus. Moreover, Futures growth of 17% was well above expectations. Although mgmt. kept FY16 plan largely the same, the broad-based strength Nike saw during the quarter indicates that brand momentum continues. Despite concerns over a weaker macro, the China business saw 30% rev. growth at higher operating margins. Finally, numerous gross margin opportunities for Nike remain, including expansion through higher ASPs, DTC & Intl growth, and numerous initiatives to drive efficiencies in manufacturing."
Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser (Buy, PT $150)
"Nike executes its mission of bringing "inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world" by being the industry leader in global grass roots engagement with its customers. The grass roots efforts are the secret sauce for this company that will do ~$33B in revenue in FY16. Through the efforts, Nike knows what its customers expect of the brand and what price increases will be accepted. The 1Q16 FX-neutral revenue increase of 14% and a 17% increase in FX-neutral future orders were a result of all the aforementioned work, and there's more to come. Guidance appears quite conservative. Raising FY16/FY17 EPS estimates from $4.04/$4.58 to $4.36/$5.15. Estimates: Q2 $0.86 from $0.90; '16 $4.36 from $4.04; '17 $5.15 from $4.58."
Credit Suisse analyst Christian Buss (Outperform, PT $126)
"Nike continues to demonstrate solid brand momentum and translation of revenue upside to the bottom line as margin expansion in international markets accelerates. A healthy futures outlook suggests continued strength heading into the holiday season. We continue to view Nike as a best-in-class global brand that is rolling out a highly successful product and channel management strategy (Category Offense) that we believe has potential to sustain high single digit to low-double digit revenue growth and mid-teens EPS growth for several years. We reiterate our Outperform rating, and raise our estimates and Target Price to $126 from $110."
Barclays analyst Matthew McClintock (Overweight, PT $120)
"We are increasing our FY16 and FY17 EPS estimates to $4.25 and $4.90 from $4.15 and $4.80, respectively: We are also increasing our price target to $120 from $110. NKE remains a growth company, and we are impressed by accelerating growth rates despite a more subdue discretionary global environment as well as an increasingly competitive industry. We remain buyers of the shares of NKE, which historically always look expensive but also have delivered and should continue to deliver going forward."
D.A. Davidson analyst Andrew Burns (Neutral, PR $140)
"Capitalizing on a strong athletic cycle, NIKE's leadership position is unchallenged. With healthy EPS upside, broad category/regional strength and the best c.c. Futures orders since 3Q12, NKE has had an ideal start to the year. Growth acceleration in every region outside of the U.S. and Western Europe demonstrates the success of implementing the category offense strategy globally. After the 1Q EPS and Futures upside, investors will likely view the mostly reiterated guidance as conservative; the potential for upward guidance revisions appears high. In our view, the significant EPS upside over the last two quarters reflects NKE's growing capacity to leverage topline strength, but, with shares trading above $120 aftermarket, we believe this momentum is largely captured in valuation."
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.