Running Room For Nike, The Running-Inspired Company

| About: Nike Inc. (NKE)

Nike (NYSE:NKE), branded by the Swoosh, designs, develops and sells athletic footwear, apparel and equipment. Nike strives to be inspiration to every athlete. Nike brings innovation to every athlete. At the core of Nike's mission is the belief of co-founder Bill Bowerman, "If you have a body, you are an athlete." Nike believes in encouraging all athletes, regardless of skill level. It desires to encourage everyone to establish a love for physical activity.

Nike develops deep relationships with athletes. It focuses on enhancing athletic performance. Interacting with athletes actually inspires Nike to deliver innovative products. The innovation drives growth. And, that growth is running room for the company birthed on the track at the University of Oregon.

Nike reported exciting third-quarter earnings for fiscal year 2013 on March 21. Nike produces product for practically every sport and physical activity imaginable. Yet, just as running inspired its inception, running is, again, leading its growth. Running participation is growing and growing worldwide. For 13 consecutive quarters, revenue from running grew by a double-digit percentage. In nearly every geographical market, future orders for running product also grew double-digits.

Victories from the report and the conference call include:

Global revenue grew 10% (using a currency-neutral basis) while EPS grew 20% year-over-year. Revenue increased 18% in North America, Nike's oldest and largest market. Guidance for 2014 projects high single-digit growth for revenue and mid-teen EPS growth.

Future orders for the next quarter are 7% higher (on a currency-neutral basis) than the future orders for the same period a year ago.

Gross margins increased for the first time in two years.

Between pricing and lower material costs, gross margins increased 30 basis points.

Nike reported earnings based on a lower share count.

During the quarter, Nike repurchased 4.9 million shares. Of the $8 billion authorized, only $548 million has been spent leaving $7.452 billion remaining.

Nike is experiencing higher expenses in its Nike-owned stores because volume has demanded it.

Nike is reducing its environmental footprint while innovating and integrating new technology. Examples include Flyknit, Hyperwarm, Hypercool and Dri-FIT. Nike Flyknit is an innovation that behaves like a second skin and adapts to the body in motion. Its manufacturing process reduces waste by two-third the weight. Hyperwarm and Hypercool apparel help regulate the body in harsh conditions. The Dri-FIT fabric pulls sweat away, speeds drying and reduces cling.

Nike is embracing digital opportunities. Online e-commerce business grew 33% in the quarter. Beginning this month, Nike commences a three-month program with ten companies to drive digital innovation. The purpose is to create products and services to inspire athletes using Nike technology.

Nike pledged $50 million to the Let's Move Active Schools program.

In addition, Nike continues its strong commitment to The Girl Effect and tackling global poverty.

All things are not yet victorious at Nike. Opportunities still exist in China, Japan and southern Europe. China requires patience as Nike works through managing inventory and product flows. Economic conditions in Europe continue to have a lingering impact in some areas such as Iberia and Italy. Just as athletes push themselves to higher performance, Nike follows suit. Getting better is not a lofty enough goal. Being the best is the ultimate benchmark.

Nike's investor website states: "Nike, Inc. is a growth company." The latest earnings report supports that claim. Whether it be innovation or tackling challenges, growth can happen. There's still running room at Nike.

Disclosure: I am long NKE. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I belong to an investment club that owns shares in Nike.