Indestructible Crocs Facing Destruction

Aug 03, 2009
George Anderson

By Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

One of the more challenging challenges set
by Donald Trump for a group of celebrities last year was a campaign to encourage
Croc lovers to ditch their footwear. Based on the assumption that they could
not be destroyed, the idea was to pass them on to poorer people so those
who could afford them would buy replacements.

So reports The Times in the U.K., quoting
a Seattle fund manager who was surprised that his wife, rather than he, was
able to figure out the reason for the task. “They had saturated the market.
They wanted to stimulate demand by getting people to get rid of their old
Crocs,” he

Launched at a Florida boat show in 2002, the
indestructible shoes were widely agreed to be ugly but fantastically comfortable.
By the time the business floated in 2006, the $200 million raised made it
the biggest initial public offering in shoe history, according to The

But despite buying an accessories company
and looking for other new products, Crocs remained a single line business
and eventually found that there were simply no new customers around.

Sam Poser, an analyst at Sterne Agee, believes
that the problem lies in Crocs’ failure to evolve or extend their lines.
The fact that they are so widely available, and easily copied, has not helped.
By comparison, he believes Ugg shoes have a brighter future as their owner
has controlled distribution and come up with variations. Another analyst
noted, Uggs wear out, Crocs don’t.

John Duerden, a former Reebok executive hired
to revive the business, argued in his blog that they “are perhaps the perfect
product for a world in which value and simplicity are replacing avarice and
deciding whether to introduce this discussion, though, RetailWire editor-in-chief
George Anderson recalled hearing Paco Underhill say that as a brand
marketer or retailer you really should never look to have a “cool” product.
The problem with cool products, he explained, is that they eventually
become un-cool and suffer a demise that is in direct proportion or
worse than the success they achieved in becoming identified as cool
in the first place — a lesson that Crocs may or may not be able
to learn at this stage.

questions: Where did Crocs go wrong and what can it do to turn itself
around? Is there any way a one-product company can succeed long term?
When a company knows its products are trendy, what advance steps
should they be taking to assure long-term success?

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11 Comments on "Indestructible Crocs Facing Destruction"

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Warren Thayer
11 years 9 months ago

IMHO, they did the right thing by getting quick, widespread distribution, since it’s a fad. Fads start quickly, and die quickly. Sorry, guys, it’s been a very nice ride, but it’s over. Don’t throw more money into this.

Sid Raisch
Sid Raisch
11 years 9 months ago

While the product may be too good from a durability standpoint, they didn’t find a way to protect themselves from knock-offs and look-alikes, another danger of a fad product. Crocs were definitely over-exposed in too many retail stores. The limited selection of colors, styles, and sizes in many locations made for frustrating shopping. That’s why I never did buy any. I thought they did a decent job of extension with licensing colleges, etc, and sandals. Crocs would make a good side-business for Reebok, or anyone with an existing overhead and distribution infrastructure to add to their revenue. I hope they stay around so I can finally get a pair. Everyone I know who has them loves them. Only a few of those types who never follow the crowd complain about them but its not about their comfort because they don’t have a pair either.

Gene Detroyer
11 years 9 months ago
CROCS did not do anything wrong. They saw an opportunity and took it. If their thinking was at all askew, it was that they could make more out of the business than it really offers. Not only are the successes of single-product companies limited, but so are the successes of single product brands. A start-up company that picks a brand name that can not be an umbrella across multiple product lines limits its success. There is such a thing as a product life cycle and whether it is short or long there is always a point where the cycle turns down. Unless a company has thought how to extend that life cycle (through their brand) the product life cycle will be the obituary of the company. The UGGS-CROCS comparison is on target. UGGS existed before they became cool and will exist after. But more important, the meaning of the UGGS brand can be extended to other apparel products. Go to the UGGS website and check out their apparel. Each of the products fits comfortably and… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
11 years 9 months ago

Like white belts, blue eyeshadow, and cars with opera windows, there are products that hit the market that should go away quickly, but don’t. Crocs are adorable on kids under five years old, but look ridiculous on adults. I can’t imagine Crocs lasting any more than another 15 minutes.

Mark Johnson
Mark Johnson
11 years 9 months ago

I think the key issue is that you have to be forward thinking. Launching a product that does not have controlled obsolescence is an issue. I know that I just bought a new pair of sandals (Nike’s) that were NOT ugly, very comfortable and priced a lot higher than the Crocs. Crocs to me were always cheap looking and I could never tell the difference between the originals and the knock offs, so the value in the brand and therefore loyalty/engagement to the brand was minimal which therefore lessened the selling proposition.

Jonathan Marek
11 years 9 months ago

It didn’t “go wrong”; it just is what it is. In fact, I’d say Crocs did a fantastic job of successfully penetrating its market. Not every idea is worth billions or can grow forever. It’s time to move on to the next idea.

Mike Romano
Mike Romano
11 years 9 months ago

I never understood Crocs:
1) Just plain Ugly
2) Way too Expensive
3) #1 footwear product on Fashion Police Top 10 Most Wanted
4) No insulating properties for cold weather wearers
5) Good sweaty, smelly, bacteria green house for hot weather wearers
6) Apparently Crocs are a non-recyclable product that fills landfills and has a bigger carbon footprint than Andre the Giant.

They should be happy they rode their foot fad for as long as they did. In the end, as with any product, practicality and value to one’s lifestyle wins in the long term.

Jeff Hall
11 years 9 months ago

I agree with Sid’s comment: Crocs could be a viable niche business for a larger concern like Reebok.

I’ve always been astounded at their ubiquitous retail presence, given they really don’t have broad consumer appeal. I liken their target market/customer base more along the lines of folks who appreciate Birkenstocks: they appreciate comfort above all, even if the footwear itself looks a bit silly or funky. There likely is a future for Crocs, albeit a smaller version of itself.

Shilpa Rao
11 years 9 months ago

Crocs of today could be compared to jeans of 1950s; again, a fad product at that time, also (may be) ugly but fantastically comfortable. It’s true that fads die out in time but companies like wrangler and Levi’s have constantly innovated themselves with new designs and styles to sustain over years and we still go back to them to get our jeans. The fact is, for all these years they have been selling jeans!

Expanding to newer markets like Hungary, China, Israel & India, was a smart move, but cheap imitations and lack of availability of colors & designs hindered its success. As Paco Underhill pointed out, Croc needs to constantly innovate and get new lines for sustaining. They have to get on to, or create a new fad before the previous one dies out.

Roger Saunders
11 years 9 months ago

If you are “culturally” a one-trick pony, you have to hold your margins, distribution, and marketing in tight control, and have something patentable to hold off competition.

If you are “culturally” a one-trick pony in the Fashion business, sell at the top, and move on–it’s not going to be a lengthy play. Cute product on my granddaughter, but she won’t go to kindergarten with them.

Sandy Miller
Sandy Miller
11 years 9 months ago

Building a brand around a single product is dangerous for exactly this reason. However, if Crocs can expand the brand beyond the fad, there is the possibility of resurgence. For instance, offering Therapeutic customization of the shoe and building a related store-within-a-store. One of the primary reasons shoppers don’t buy more Crocs is because they’re ugly. A simple solution would be to expand the style and design offerings of the product while maintaining the primary benefit–extreme comfort.


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