Is Bigger better? A 30 minute store visit to the Nike store at People’s Square in Shanghai, China to look at their product, supply chain, strategic sourcing, demand planning, and store operations. I actually wanted to cover quality and size issues on this article but its too lengthy so I will separate into two reports.
The purpose of this post is to share my 25 years of experience working in the active, sportswear, streetwear, fast fashion, outdoor, and young contemporary industries. 20 years ago I applied for a job with Nike but was rejected as the letter I sent to Phil Knight said he needed to incorporate fashion into his clothing. Phil’s personal response through his assistance was that they were a sport company and would not touch fashion. Today, as Phil has resigned from active duty this is a totally different story.
This post goes beyond this one brand and is an industry problem that needs a correction to make better product, programs, supply chain, operations and support for consumers globally.
I would like to congratulate Nike for having the busiest store in Shanghai.
It was very impressive to walk into the Nike store in Peoples Square on a Saturday afternoon, as you enter, you are greeted by a wall of shoes with an abundance of people, relaxing or checking out the new products for spring 2015.
Taking the escalator between floors was a constant stream of people.
The downstairs shoe wall also had an abundance of people trying on the latest styles. But I was there only to check out the latest trends in apparel and look at their supply chain (product quality), purchasing, allocation and replenishment. I was impressed by their activewear, their styling, look and presentation. The quality was pretty good but their were some major and minor issues with product quality that I will review below:
The hanger appeal for the above items is okay, but you can see it is stretched along the stitch lines, and could use some more pressing to shrink it and make it look nicer. It is a minor issue that most of us can live with.
This item is a disaster that started by the approval at design level. The issue is the lower portion of the short is a light woven fabric and the top portion is a heavy knit fabric, so when you stitch the two together there will usually be a problem. It can be fixed but requires a skilled sewer and in mass production were they are paid by the piece it is difficult to control. The bottom seam of the waistband (where the woven meets the knit fabric), has heavy puckering along the seam, notice how it bulges when it lies flat. The top of the waistband is also stretched which is an indication that the supplier making this short is not qualified to sew this type of product.
The above stitch is very messy and should not be on the Nike selling floor. The machine used to stitch this item has a dull knife which is used to trim the excess fabric from the joining seams.
Imagine your crotch is hanging to your left, how will that feel? With training and proper instructions this can be avoided and is not an acceptable standard.
The rest of the products in activewear looked pretty good with minor issues of pressing and trimming, if you don’t mind buying items that are wrinkled with loose threads hanging off them.
I was really impressed by the finishing, quality and presentation of this half zip stretch top, see above. This should be established as the industry standard for finishing of the half zip tops. As over the years I have experienced major issues at production level with this kind of top.
I like this top so much, I had to try it on and see if it was an essential for my wardrobe. The body of this shirt fit amazing, but the arms were in left field. They didn’t match the shirt, as the body fit and the arms were short, loose and baggy, especially around the bicep. So I didnt buy the top.
As I entered the lower level (basement) and turned the corner I was greeted by a proud display of Jordan.
What I was about to discover is that Jordan, was made with such poor quality, attention to detail, and quality. It did not represent the man who is an important figure in NBA basketball and the Nike organization.
On the Jordan display this is the first piece you encounter, and really it is nothing special, it could be found on any other store shelf and does not represent Mr. Jordan.
The neckline does not line up and the only representation is the Jordan logoed zipper.
The Bottom hem is uneven and messy, it looks like it came from the sale rack, not the new spring 2015 collection on display.
Beside there featured wall of polyester shorts, there was this polyester top with a self fabric ribbing on the collar. The issue is this collar stood out and could be noticed by any trained QC (Quality Control) but made it all the way to the store shelves.
This neckline and finish is an embarrassment to the Nike Brand. I myself would never let this on the store shelf, it should have been rejected at production stage. Actually this should have been spotted at inline production stage, which is during production. After a few more customer wears and washes this neckline will continue to stretch and bag out. Its a simple solution to fix but Nike let it go all the way to the retail floor. It gets worse, the below is the bottom hem of this shirt.
The top shirt is how this item looks on the hanger, but once you stretch the bottom hem to put over your head and body, the bottom hem will have a trade term called “Tunnelling”. This is not an acceptable quality standard especially for a well known brand like Nike. The factory making this item is not qualified to make this type of product but someone allocated and accepted the production. The Jordan product was appalling, the quality was poor and tasteless. Once I removed myself from the Jordan products, I came to another display of Nike products.
On the table next to Jordan was this jacket, and I was shocked to see how the left and right side pockets lined up at the seam. This is a quality issue that should be prevented at inline production. Below are more issues with seam alignment issues.
The fact is that there were many great products in the store but the above are the quality issues I discovered on one 30 minute store visit. Not internally or examining the back end systems or procedures after one week, many months or years.
Nike is a great company built on a solid foundation and everyone working there knows it. On the front end of the business the staff in the store are very accommodating, hospitality, honest and friendly. But the back end is a completely different story. Most of the upper management I have met are unapproachable and believe they are on a pedestal.
The supply chain, purchasing, allocation, replenishment is struggling. Which means the product and ultimately the consumer and brand is suffering.
But really who is winning the race? In the last 10 years you have watched two companies (Under Armour and Lululemon) grow from zero to billion dollar brands taken away or adding value to the industry. Then there hundreds or thousands more smaller companies that have made a dent in the active, sport and outdoor markets. It will be interesting to watch the evolution over the next ten years and witness the changes.
If you would like help improving your product, people, programs, supply chain, operations and back end let me know, it would be my pleasure to assist you with success stories.