The sports apparel market is crowded with giants that include German company Adidas and smaller companies like faltering Lululemon Athletica Inc. (NASDAQ: LULU). Little wonder that market leader Nike Inc. (NASDAQ: NKE) continues to release products that might give it even the slightest edge among soccer players, runners, walkers and weekend athletes. Its most recent angle is a line with “minimal environmental impact.” In an attempt to add more customers, Nike has gone green.
Nike’s management calls the foundation of its new products “ColorDry technology.” The announcement about the advance was done with a great deal of fanfare:
NIKE, Inc. revealed another step in the vision NIKE, Inc. President and CEO Mark Parker recently described at its investor meeting, as a “manufacturing revolution”. NIKE, Inc. celebrated the opening of a waterfree dyeing facility featuring high-tech equipment to eliminate the use of water and process chemicals from fabric dyeing at its Taiwanese contract manufacturer Far Eastern New Century Corp. NIKE, Inc. has named this sustainable innovation “ColorDry” to highlight the environmental benefits and unprecedented coloring achieved with the technology.
Much less prominent in the announcement was that, for the time being, the process is only being used in polo shirts. Given the size of Nike’s line of clothing, the effect on the overall Nike product line is less than modest. It is, however, part of the company’s overall pitch that it has become environmentally responsible.
While Nike has not said precisely what the value of ColorDry technology is, likely the supposed benefits are just as much from public relations as from sales. Some portion of the athletic gear consumer base may want to “go green” just as it has among car buyers who prefer hybrids. Nike cannot know for now whether this will lift its sales much.
However, large American consumer-based companies that have said nothing about their work to improve the environment are likely to be in a minority soon, if they are not already. Nike has made a start to move into what it believes is the favored category of green companies, even if its product base is less than modest.