“Perhaps in ten years nostalgia will reign and we will say, 'Do you remember, we had ugly, as if made for the Flintstones, shoes?'” - Rachel Weingarten, a trend and marketing expert, predicted in 2009. Then the Crocs company, which grew out of the need for comfortable, light and waterproof shoes for sailing and for seven years now has supplied it not only to yachtsmen, but also to teachers, couriers and doctors, came close to bankruptcy. Despite the fact that by 2007 the brand was selling 50 million crocs a year, reaching a profit of $ 168.2 million, it ended 2008 with a loss of $ 185.1 million.
According to analyst Jeff Mintz, this was influenced not only by the global recession, but also by the decline in interest in the product itself. If at the beginning of the 2000s, perforated shoes with an open heel and a clumsy crocodile-like nose caused either resentment or delight, then by the end they became so ubiquitous (“Even George W. Bush had a pair,” wrote The Guardian) that already left the audience indifferent.
In addition, the demand for crocs was constrained by their durability: a person who bought a pair came for a new one only after a few years. "Who needs a second pair of Crocs during a recession if the first holds up pretty well?" - asked journalists The Washington Post, while their colleagues cited other factors that influenced the deterioration of the brand. Among them are fake crocs that have flooded the market, reduced orders from retailers and oversupply in their own stores. At that time, Crocs, trying to increase its recognition in the world, produced not only the famous clogs, but also T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, socks and sunglasses with the corporate logo in the form of a crocodile.
The company's financial performance fluctuated for another nine years. And this despite the involvement of anti-crisis managers and making strategic decisions: from expanding the shoe line to boots, ballet flats, sneakers and even fur clogs to the sale of shares in the investment company Blackstone, specializing in working with distressed assets. By 2018, the brand approached with the intention of closing about 160 of its 558 retail stores and liquidating its own factories in order to start making shoes from partners.
Crocs boots © instagram.com/crocsru
In total, the company has been in crisis for almost a decade, just as Rachel Weingarten predicted. It was not so much the optimization of production processes that helped to get out of it, but a return to the origins - the very clogs in which the founders of Crocs - Scott Seamans, Lyndon Hanson and George Bedeker Jr. walked on the deck.
The brand realized the need to focus not on developing new models, but on customizing the flagship product. For example, through collaborations with other brands that help establish crocs as a fashion item and thereby significantly expand the audience, as well as through limited editions that help reduce the number of fakes. Moreover, here the company can work in two directions at once: change the design of the crocs themselves and come up with jibits for them. These are rubber ornaments inserted into shoe holes that American housewife Sheri Schmelzer came up with in 2005 when she sold her Crocs idea for $ 10 million.
In 2016, crocs with a marble print and minerals in holes appeared at the Christopher Kane show, and in 2017, a model on a giant platform with jibits in the form of flowers, dogs and the Russian flag was the result of a collaboration with Balenciaga. The pair, interpreted by Demna Gvasalia, sold for $ 850, more than 17 times the current price for classic crocs. The shocking price of shoes, which in 2010 was included in the list of the 50 worst inventions, according to Time magazine, once again divided the world into those who love or hate her. As in the 2000s, it only benefited the company: the collaboration with Balenciaga was sold out in three hours, and never appeared in the fashion house's offline stores.
1 of 6 X Balenciaga Crocs © instagram.com/crocs X Christopher Kane Crocs © instagram.com/crocs X Takashi Murakami Crocs © instagram.com/crocs X Nicole McLaughlin Crocs © instagram.com/crocs Crocs from collaboration with Tsvetnoy department store © instagram.com/crocs Crocs from collaboration with Vera Bradley © instagram.com/crocs
However, this was far from a record. In 2018, Crocs began collaborating with stars who were also kind of outsiders, only from the art world. Collaboration yellow clogs with Justin Bieber got sold-out status in 90 minutes, crocs with glowing jibits in the form of bunnies, created by Puerto Rican singer Bad Bunny, in 16 minutes, and camouflage pair by American rapper Post Malone in 10 minutes. Of course, the speed of sales, which only Louis Vuitton can boast after cooperation with Supreme, as well as H&M in the framework of joint collections with global brands, was influenced by the rational choice of partners and their multi-million audience.
However, the Crocs collaboration with KFC, which resulted in clogs with a fried chicken flavor and which also sold out in just 30 minutes, showed the deeper reasons for the company's new round of popularity. For many years, the audience has been waiting for the challenge from Crocs, which the brand was famous for in the first years of its existence, as well as the ironic attitude to itself, which it lost on the way to becoming one of the leaders in the shoe market.
The coronavirus pandemic has also affected the demand for crocs, whose sales in 2020 grew 48% compared to 2019, and searches on the topic jumped 32% in October. "In today's environment, anything that can be called comfortable has succeeded," NPD Group analyst Matt Powell quotes The New York Times, adding: "Strange times call for even stranger shoes."
The incentive to buy it was also the charitable initiatives that the brand launched during the spring quarantine and for which they wanted to thank him with a ruble. Thus, Crocs donated more than 860 thousand pairs of shoes worth $ 40 million to medical personnel around the world, including employees of GKB No. 40 in Kommunarka. In addition, the company launched the #FreePairFriday initiative, in which it distributed 10,000 crocs to those who were left without income or lost their jobs during the pandemic crisis.
1 of 4 Crocs for doctors © instagram.com/crocs Crocs with LGBTQ + logo © instagram.com/crocs Jibits in support of the Black Lives Matter movement © instagram.com/crocs Crocs with American flag elements © instagram.com/crocs
The company has taken an active civic stance on other issues as well, promoting its “Come as you are” slogan, not only to popularize the opportunities for self-expression that Crocs come with jibits. In June, Crocs teamed up with actress Ruby Rose to release “Just Love” clogs in rainbow hues. The proceeds from their sale went to Glaad, a media advocacy organization that promotes a fair, accurate and comprehensive view of LGBTQ + in society. The Black Lives Matter movement also did not bypass the brand: it introduced jibits with anti-racist slogans in support of the NAACP, which defends the civil rights of black people. "We stand for equality and listen to what our fans want,"- highlighted the representatives of Crocs in the comments under the post about the release of jibits.
1 of 10 Justin Bieber in crocs © Instagram Nicholas Brown in crocs © Instagram MLMA in crocs from collaboration with KFC © Instagram Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani in crocs © Instagram Ariana Grande in crocs © Instagram Priyanka Chopra in crocs © Instagram Drew Barrymore in crocs © Instagram Instagram Post Malone Crocs © Instagram Ruby Rose Crocs © Instagram Bad Bunny Crocs © Instagram
By the way, the company's social networks are a separate art form. Unlike fashion brands, which are limited to notifying users when new collections are released, Crocs posts on Instagram photos of their customers, shoe care instructions, animated series, and even interpretations of popular memes. For example, in December 2019, the brand created an art installation with crox taped to the wall as a reference to Maurizio Cattelan's banana, which went under the hammer for $ 120,000.
1 of 6 Memes from Crocs © instagram.com/crocs Memes from Crocs © instagram.com/crocs Memes from Crocs © instagram.com/crocs Memes from Crocs © instagram.com/crocs Memes from Crocs © instagram. com / crocs Memes by Crocs © instagram.com/crocs
Of course, Crocs is widely featured on TikTok, which has literally captured the minds of humanity lately. Either at the suggestion of the brand, or spontaneously, a series of videos appeared on the social network in which users fill crocs with shaving foam, put them on their feet and rejoice at how "foam sausages" fly out of the holes. In addition, TikTok users try to burn crocs, run over them with a car, and even use shoes instead of tennis rackets, which shows its advantages almost more efficiently than large-scale and costly advertising campaigns involving Priyanka Chopra, Drew Barrymore and Natalie Dormer.
Michelle Poole, Crocs' senior vice president of global product and marketing, understands that the popularity of clogs could wane much faster and easier than it did back. However, she hopes that the need for comfortable shoes will not disappear in the near future. The company decided to play it safe by creating winter crocs. This is not a fundamentally new model, as it used to be, but an interpretation of the flagship pair, which today accounts for 60% of all brand sales. Clogs with nylon tops appeared in a collection dedicated to the tenth anniversary of Tsvetnoy, which, however, did not sell out at the rate typical of Crocs. Probably, in Russia it is still customary to use crocs exclusively indoors, on the beach or in the country. Will the second wave of the wardrobe transformation dictated by the coronavirus pandemic be able to change our attitude towards them?