by Elizabeth Hur

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – One of the largest makers of athletic gear in the world is pulling its items off some local store shelves.

In an Eyewitness News exclusive, retailers tell us they believe they are being discriminated against by Nike.

It’s the last thing store owners ever expected.

They are receiving letters and emails from Nike, telling them they can no longer sell their gear. They say it’s a crushing blow to the business and wonder why.

For 16 years, Top Sportswear served shoppers in North Philadelphia. In Olney, Real McCoy Sports for 23 years and Shoe Plus Athletic Footwear has been around the Nicetown-Tioga Neighborhood for 35 years.

And shoppers like Regetta and Blair Simmons appreciate having these stores within walking distance from their homes

Blair Simmons of North Philadelphia said, “They give us good service here and they treat us right here.”

But one by one, according to business owners, six stores so far in Philadelphia and Camden have gotten emails from Nike: One of which read in part, “No disrespect to our 23 years of relationship” and letters which read, “Effective June 30th.. Nike is exercising its right to terminate your accounts.”

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Keith Sherman, Real CcCoy Sports Manager, “As far as sales for this store, you’re talking about 75-80% Nike. So you cut out the Nike that pretty much cuts me out too.”

Sherman has managed the Olney Sporting Goods store for 21 years and hearing Nike explain in an email quote, “We are a premium brand and our brand deserves the best platform” is troubling.

Sherman said, “We are the small mom/pop shops, we’re the ones being cut out.”

In a statement, Nike told us:

“Nike is constantly evaluating its distribution needs with a view to enhancing its brand. This includes adapting our distribution strategy to the changes in our consumers’ purchasing behavior, the retail landscape, and our brand strategy.”

But for the retailers we spoke with, their interpretation is much different.

Sherman explained, “I mean, us, urban, the hood.. We built that, we built Nike. We helped that brand get up there and this is what we get in return?”

Nike is so far confirming that it will no longer be accepting new orders from some accounts. So we asked Nike why these neighborhood stores were chosen and in all, how many accounts are being terminated but we have not yet heard back from them.

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