Nike Threw Down a Powerful Dunk in the Face of Athletic Retailers

Updated from Sept. 25 with e-commerce and same-store sales numbers in the third paragraph.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Nike (NKE) just authoritatively dunked in the face of its athletic apparel competition by posting a host of shockingly strong numbers in the first quarter. 

The footwear and apparel giant reported net revenue of $7.98 billion compared to the Bloomberg consensus of $7.80 billion. Sales increased in every product type, geography and category except golf and actions sports.  Golf has been challenging category for Nike and others, such as sporting goods retailer Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) , which recently let go of hundreds of golf professionals, as a result of fewer rounds of golf being played and lack of industry innovation.

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Nike's ecommerce and same-store sales surged by 70% and 15%, respectively, as the company has improved the visual presentations of its products with a key partner like Macy's ( M)  and offered product customization for women online.  By comparison, Lululemon's ( LULU) same-store sales fell 5% in its most recent quarter, while online sales rose 28.5%.  Under Armour's ( UA)  ecommerce sales increased by about 19.4% in its latest quarter. The company does not disclose its same-store sales.    

Of particular importance to investors should be Nike's robust sales in Western and Eastern Europe, as well as Greater China, in light of souring economic growth in the regions in recent months. Nike's sales in Western and Eastern Europe rose 25% and 9%, respectively.  Sales in Western and Eastern Europe were led by 29% and 17% respective increases in the footwear category.

Earnings per share came in at $1.09, 21 cents ahead of Wall Street estimates, as Nike's gross margin of 46.6% beat forecasts for 45.24%. Similar to the fourth fiscal quarter, Nike's profits benefited from demand for higher-margin basketball sneakers, rising average selling prices, and continued sales gains in direct to consumer channels such as online and stand-alone stores. Earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) outpaced sales growth in all geographic regions, except central and eastern Europe, Japan and emerging markets in large part due to currency headwinds.

Nike's future orders were also a bright spot, surpassing the consensus forecast in all geographic regions by wide margins.

The broad-based strength of Nike's quarter and future orders sheds light on how demand for athletic apparel and basketball footwear continues to drive the business outside of the World Cup.

Foot Locker (FL) , which gets about 8% of its sales from Nike, noted on its second-quarter earnings call in August that basketball sales rose by a "high-teens" percentage, with the running category up by a "mid-single digit" percentage. Dick's Sporting goods remarked on its second-quarter earnings call that sales were "strong in women's and youth apparel," two categories for Nike that dominate the sporting goods retailer's selling floor.

Next up for Nike is the Oct. 11 release of newly minted Cleveland Cavalier Lebron James' "Lebron 12" basketball sneaker, which will feature Nike's lightweight Flyknit technology and come in multiple colors. Sales price: $200.

Further, Nike could unveil a comprehensive software platform that tracks a person's athletic performance in concert with the first quarter 2015 launch of Apple's (AAPL)  new watch.  In Apple's iOS 8 upgrade that includes its new "Health" app, Nike Fuel, a point system for users of Nike's Fuelband and watch offerings that it has chosen to discontinue, has received prominent placement.  

Nike did not specifically discuss its digital plans or Apple on the earnings call, the closest comment arising from president and CEO Mark Parker in, "And when I look at our innovation pipeline, I see innovations that will, no doubt, surprise and delight, innovations that are better for athletes, consumers, and the planet. I couldn't be more excited about what's coming."

Read More: What Starbucks, Walmart and Pepsi Did to Control their Destinies


TheStreet Ratings team rates NIKE INC as a Buy with a ratings score of A+. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate NIKE INC (NKE) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures, notable return on equity, solid stock price performance and growth in earnings per share. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow."

You can view the full analysis from the report here: NKE Ratings Report

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