When Doug and Kim Norman of Norman’s Sports purchased P & K Athletics in 2000, one of the cornerstones of the company’s business was the Jordan brand. Since 1978, when Pat and Karen Winterrowd landed the Nike retail license, the Nike brand has been a staple of the Cut Bank store. Since then, the store has worked hard to provide any and all varieties of Jordan shoes their customers wanted. Until now.
In November 2019, Nike informed Norman’s Sports, via email, of their decision to no longer accept orders from them for Jordan brand products. Teri Bickford, longtime manager at Norman’s Sports, is extremely disappointed in the decision of the sportswear giant and has witnessed the effects of Nike’s decision on the locally-owned store.
“I just want people to know our story. The mom and pop businesses are what made Nike and what made the Jordan brand,” Bickford said. And they were good business partners with the corporate giant. “We took shoes from Nike that we received past the release dates and past the cancellation dates. We pay our bills on time and have always been an account in good standing. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
With the Blackfeet Reservation less than a mile from Norman’s front doors, it is easy to see why there is such a dramatic impact by the Jordan brand. One of the driving points of Bickford’s complaints against Nike has been its mantra of inclusiveness over the years. Norman’s Sports was one of the only Jordan retailers within 110 miles of the Blackfeet Reservation, allowing customers to purchase Jordan products without having to travel to Great Falls for a limited selection of shoes or to purchase them online.
Bickford said these options limit people’s ability in this area, since some are unable to make the drive and others simply do not have internet access or a physical mailing address to have their online order shipped.
“It just breaks my heart that I am not able to offer all of the exciting products that our customers want anymore,” Bickford said. “People come in and call us asking about the latest shoes and if we got them in and I just have to tell them no.”
The move for Nike comes as part of the company’s “agile offense.” According to the email sent to Norman’s Sports, the company made the move to remove itself from several hundred smaller retail stores throughout the country as they “aim to distribute products in the right place at the right time.”
The move leaves many customers, including Joe Wagner, a Browning resident and enrolled Blackfeet member, at a loss for how to get their Jordan shoes.
“I have always gotten my Jordans from Norman’s and the move really cut off my entire connection with the brand,” Wagner said. “Jordan is part of the culture here on the reservation and I have been wearing them for over 27 years now. Everyone here loves them and it really was different with Jordan. There was a real connection there.”
Bickford has made multiple attempts to reach Nike over the past 16 months to make her case as to why Norman’s Sports should be allowed to regain their Jordan brand license. Since the email they received on Nov. 8, 2019, there has been radio silence in return.
While increasingly frustrated with the company, Bickford is grateful that they were allowed to retain their Nike line products license. “We are fortunate enough to still have our Nike license. However, it isn’t the same with other shoes. We have had Lebron, Steph Curry, Kyrie and Kobe shoes in our store. We have had them all. It just isn’t the same because it isn’t Michael Jordan,” Bickford said. “This is what our customer base wants. It really is a part of their culture and it is being taken away from them.”
Bickford expressed her desire for Norman’s customers and lovers of the Jordan brand to make their thoughts known to Nike. On the bottom of the Nike website, there is a section to contact the company tabbed, “Send Us Feedback.” If enough people contact Nike, Bickford is hopeful the company will take notice and makes a change.
“I feel like Nike has always been for the underdog and has reached out to those that have been afflicted in their lives,” Bickford said. “Now it just feels like they are making it difficult for people to get their products and aren’t thinking of the little guy. I am a fixer and I love to fix things. I just can’t fix this one by myself.”