Crocs at 15: The Brand That Refuses to Die

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Crocs x Christopher Kane

In just 15 years, Crocs sold 300 million pairs of its eponymous foam clog. That’s over 480,700 pairs sold for every one of its 624 outlets, which was the number of Crocs retail shops at its peak. Of course, many of those sales were online.

So the brand’s announcement that it plans to shave its retail presence to 400 stores by the end of 2018 is no surprise. That 400 stores is a surprise to many who thought the brand might be a memory by now. Crocs is, in fact, reestablishing itself and in one ongoing legal battle, it’s even getting feisty.

Think you can beat John Cena's #CrocsAndSocks matchup? Post a pic of yours using the hashtag.

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Closing 158 stores comes at a time when retail, especially mall-based retail, is getting battered. But the problems for Crocs started years ago. After a stratospheric rise between 2006 and 2012, Crocs became the butt of fashion jokes, and its brand appeared to be crashing. But it plowed money into new stores and marketing and it hit $1 billion in sales by 2011.

Then in 2013, sales were down by more than 40% and the company’s publicly-traded shares lost one fifth of their value. By 2014, Crocs was in restructuring mode, laying off almost 200 employees and closing 100 stores. It also slashed its inventory by nearly half. Meanwhile, on the legal front, Crocs remains embroiled in a nasty lawsuit with competitor USA Dawgs involving corporate sabotage and accusations of abusing the legal system.

Special edition Crocs, however, still sell well. This includes, for adults, the Bistro Mario Batali Edition closed-toe clogs, named after the celebrity Crocs-wearing chef. (Though Batali just told Esquire he’s taking a break from his iconic orange Crocs.)

For Crocs-wearing kids, a licensing deal with Disney brought them Disney Princess, Marvel Comics, Star Wars and Cars-themed shoes. But it’s not going to wait and see if it gets hot again. The brand is once again turning up the heat on its marketing and refusing to die.

Christopher Kane Spring Summer 2018. “Domestic Services”. Details #ChristopherKane #SS18 #DomesticServices

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Turning up at New York Fashion Week, Crocs caught some haute couture followers off-guard. But why not? For the second collection in a row, fashion designer Christopher Kane has included Crocs in his Spring Summer 2018 collection, following his earlier line which included fur-trimmed Crocs. The collaboration is in trend with the ugly clunky shoe trend on the runway of late.

Crocs x Christopher Kane

Gone were the elegant, patrician stilettos and in there place were canary-yellow, bedazzled bulbous sandals. “Nope,” wrote one poster on Kane’s Instagram feed. In a way, Kane’s inclusion of Crocs was what the kids might call a “neg” for the brand.

Kane’s collection was titled “Domestic Services” and included other shoes designed to evoke the kind of mop a domestic worker might use to clean a bathroom or kitchen. Another pair had pan scrub sponges fixed to them.

But not all of the brand’s positioning is quite so ambitious, or questionable. The brand has enlisted a truly unique range of celebrity faces for the brand. For men, WWE wrestler turned actor John Cena. For women, it has tapped Gen X icon actor Drew Barrymore. Barrymore, a mom of two, is even designing a collection for Crocs.

And then there are the international markets, where Crocs do not carry the burden of being a fashion punching bag. In South Korea, Crocs has enlisted pop star Yoona, a member of the wildly popular singing group Girls Generation.

And in China, its young face is Henry Lau, a multi-talented entertainer of Taiwanese, Hong Kong and Canadian origins. Lau, like many Canto-Pop and K-Pop stars, is popular in in both South Korea and China. Crocs is slowly building its network of shops in China and has a prominent Tmall.com e-tail shop, for which Lau is of course a major presence.

All four of these celebrity faces are part of Crocs “Come as You Are” campaign. It’s a message that clearly is meant to fill Crocs fans with a sense of confidence about wearing something comfortable no matter what prevailing “cool kids” say.

And maybe the cool kids are saying less hurtful things than they used to. At least one report in the Washington Post paints a picture of a Crocs brand with its cool factor on the rise. Crocs Club, anyone?

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