January 2, 2003, 12:00 AM

Small retailers use Nike.net to stock fast-selling items

Small retailers are finding the web useful for ordering and managing new shoe products. They also use it to obtain news and product information that bigger retailers get from attending trade shows.

City Sports, a 10-store sporting goods chain based in Wilmington, MA, is using a new Nike Inc. business-to-business web site, Nike.net, to keep its shelves stocked with the hottest selling items, the retailer said. “Four out of our top five shoes last week were Nike, and every one of them is there because of our ability to fill them through Nike.net,” a City Sports spokesman says.

City Sports is one of about 2,000 small retailers that have begun using Nike.net to check product availability and place and manage orders, says Lee Walker, Nike’s U.S. b2b marketing manager. “We’re trying to automate transactions that Nike retailers do day in and day out,” he tells InternetRetailer.com. Nike.net is also being used by another 500 specialty retailers that sell only one Nike product line, such as footwear for a particular sport.

Small retailers also say they find Nike.net a useful tool for keeping up-to-date on Nike product and marketing information. “I look forward to using Nike.net for information ranging from stock availability to getting general news from Nike,” says a spokesman for GoJo Sports, which operates two stores in Greeley, CO. Walker adds that small retailers who typically don’t travel to trade shows or other Nike corporate events will use Nike.net to view online video presentations of new products.

The approximately 2,500 small retailers now using Nike.net make up about half the number of small retailers that sell Nike products. Nike expects to eventually have all of them using Nike.net. Although some of the smallest retailers may not even have a computer in their stores, Nike is working with Hewlett-Packard Co. to offer a special preconfigured $999 computer package to enable them to access Nike.net.

Although Nike.net is currently used primarily for checking product availability and order management, it will eventually also be used to process returns and electronic payment of invoices, Walker says.

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