"Ugly" Crocs, the next Lululemon?

The thousand-yuan sandals that are "indispensable to people", what is the charm in them?

"There is water everywhere, fortunately I can go ahead wearing thick-bottomed Crocs."

On July 31st, when there was heavy rain in Beijing, many companies started working from home, but Chen Xin still had to go to work in the rain. She went out wearing a pair of clog shoes. Seeing all the accumulated water outside, Chen Xin was glad: she had bought them just in time.

In these rainy days, traces of clog shoes could be seen everywhere on the streets and subways. Some netizens exclaimed: "Today's outfit for Beijing workers - 9 out of 10 pairs are clog shoes." Although not as exaggerated as this, it shows how widely clog shoes are worn.
"Ugly" Crocs, the next Lululemon?

The pair of Crocs clog shoes Chen Xin was wearing was just bought a few days ago. Since buying them, Chen Xin has been wearing them almost every time she goes out. She said she has entered the "clog community".

"Clog community" refers to the group of people who love to wear clog shoes. It is a spontaneously formed community, just like the "McDonald's fans" who love McDonald's. Driven by their common interest, they develop a sense of affinity with each other. "Cloggers" have their own moral standards - "A person who thinks clog shoes are comfortable to wear can't be that bad, no matter how bad they are."

The main attraction of clog shoes to consumers comes from their comfort. "Cloggers" describe: "Once you wear clog shoes, your foot type will be set for life. They become your own skin. You will never wear other expensive shoes again."

However, at the same time, clog shoes have also been called "ugly shoes" for years because of their shape that does not conform to the general aesthetic. Moreover, due to their shape and materials, clog shoes are more likely to get caught in escalators, causing many tragedies over the years. Still, clog shoes have never faded from the public view. In recent years, they have made a strong comeback, attracting more and more consumers.

Among them, the Crocs brand is the representative of clog shoes and also the founder of this category. It has developed rapidly in recent years. From 2018 to 2022, Crocs' annual revenue grew from US$1.088 billion to US$3.555 billion, maintaining double-digit growth for four consecutive years, unaffected even during the pandemic.

China has always been one of Crocs' core markets, and also one of its fastest growing markets. Crocs’ first quarter 2023 report shows that its revenue in China increased by 110% year-on-year.

Looks versus comfort, which one do you want?

Crocs is an American footwear brand founded in 2002. The three founders from Colorado originally planned to develop a shoe product specifically designed for boating and outdoor activities. They noticed that a special material produced by the Canadian company Foamcreations had good slip resistance and was very comfortable to wear. So they made some modifications on the original basis and designed the clog shoes.

This material was named Croslite resin, which can have bright colors without fading, and is waterproof, odor-resistant, slip-resistant, and lightweight. The shape of the shoes is similar to slippers, and the holes on the upper can provide ventilation while the heel strap that can rotate provides convenience and is safer than ordinary slippers. As a result, clog shoes have gradually gained popularity among the elderly, children and outdoor enthusiasts.

Crocs' classic Clog style is also very popular among medical staff, and is almost the "standard configuration" in hospitals. Due to the special working environment, long periods of standing, and frequent disinfection, Clogs are able to meet the needs of medical staff very well with their comfort and easy wear.

In March 2018, Crocs launched a new material called LiteRide. The company claimed that LiteRide is 40% softer and 25% lighter than the previous Croslite, making it even more comfortable to wear.

Although comfortable to wear, Crocs' appearance has been widely criticized: the bulky toe cap, the upper full of holes, and they were once called "the world's ugliest shoes".

"Their clog shoes are quite ugly in style," consumer Li Jun told us. He has bought counterfeit products, foreign trade products, and genuine ones online. In comparison, Crocs' genuine products indeed do not smell or cause itching, and are comfortable to wear. "Other brands can't achieve this." So compelled by the comfort, Li Jun went back to buy Crocs products after trying many options.

Crocs has also always emphasized practicality and comfort as the core selling points of its products, and keeps stressing that they make "the world's most comfortable shoes".

Former Crocs Brand Vice President and China General Manager Frankie Taylor said in an interview with First Financial Magazine that the "ugly shoes" have become a symbolic product for Crocs. Some consumers may hate the design of this type of shoes, but a large number of consumers recognize this "ugliness" as individuality, urbanite and uniqueness, which gives Crocs an image that is easier to remember.

Where does the value of the thousand-yuan slippers lie?

However, a pair of comfortable Crocs clog shoes is not cheap.

Consumer Xiaoguo bought a pair of Crocs Liteline shoes at a mall counter for 739 yuan. In addition to the cost of the "plain" slippers, she also bought many jibbitz (decorations for the holes on the shoes) from Taobao to match them. On average, each jibbitz cost about 12-13 yuan. All in all, the cost of a pair of slippers approached 1,000 yuan.

On Crocs' Tmall flagship store, the most expensive pair of clog shoes is priced at 879 yuan, and the best-selling one is 439 yuan. The prices are much higher than ordinary slippers and clog shoes of other brands. Many consumers have thus been deterred and turned to buy other brands or counterfeits.

On Taobao, the top-selling clog shoes look almost identical to Crocs, but are only priced at around 10-20 yuan. These shoes are made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer), which is fundamentally different from Crocs. Crocs owns patents for the Croslite and LiteRide materials they use, which creates the most core product barrier, but also makes the price remain high.

Jibbitz are also a major additional cost of wearing clog shoes. In cloggers' eyes, wearing clog shoes without jibbitz is like going out naked.

In 2006, Crocs acquired the shoe decor company Jibbitz and renamed it Bad Dawg. The introduction of Bad Dawg decorations brought new possibilities to Crocs clog shoes. Not only did it provide room for young people pursuing individuality to DIY their shoes, but also added value to Crocs clog shoes to some extent.

In Crocs' official stores, a Bad Dawg jibbitz costs 28 yuan. From the DIY clog shoes people have shared online, almost every pair is decorated with more than a dozen jibbitz. If they were genuine Bad Dawg, several hundred yuan more would have been spent.

So people are not only looking for alternatives to Crocs clog shoes, but also digging for replacements for Bad Dawg jibbitz.

Crocs is not the only clog shoe brand. Although Crocs pioneered this category, it did not firmly control the Chinese market. In the domestic market, many domestic sports brands have also created relatively mature clog shoes, such as Anta, Li Ning, Reebok, Peak, etc. In addition, clog shoes from foreign brands like KEEN, Skechers, Birkenstock, Merrell, etc. have also gained popularity among many Chinese consumers.

However, these brands still mainly use EVA materials for their clog shoes, or make some changes on the EVA basis, such as EVA rubber, EVA foam rubber, high elasticity EVA, etc.

In terms of price, most domestic brands' clog shoes are priced lower than Crocs, mostly ranging from several tens to one or two hundred yuan, and two to three hundred yuan. But some individual products are also relatively expensive, depending on the specific style. Foreign brands like Merrell are also not cheap, usually starting from two to three hundred yuan.

Among all the clog shoe brands, Crocs still has the highest consumer awareness. With its singular product line and distinctive brand image, Crocs has almost achieved “category equals brand”. This is very similar to Lululemon, which represents the yoga pants category.
"Ugly" Crocs, the next Lululemon?

How did Crocs get out of its low valley?

In its fourth year after establishment, Crocs rang the Nasdaq bell and set the highest IPO record for an American footwear company at that time. The prospectus showed that in the 4 years before going public, Crocs had already earned $800 million.

However, Crocs' business journey has not always been smooth sailing. When asked about their impression of Crocs, one consumer told us: "Isn't this the brand that was going bankrupt and closing down stores a few years ago?"

Crocs did go through a period of decline. At that time, while expanding product lines, the company acquired upstream and downstream companies in the industry chain, trying to continuously expand its business map. However, the good times didn't last long. The 2008 financial crisis worsened the overall economic environment. Coupled with the impact of a large number of low-priced counterfeits, Crocs' inventory increased sharply. The single clog shoe style also stagnated in the Chinese market for a time, with a large backlog of inventory.

That year, Crocs suffered its first huge loss since going public, $185 million, and laid off more than 2,000 employees. Its share price plunged from $69 a year earlier to just over $1. In 2014, due to long-term weak performance, Crocs launched a global strategic reorganization plan, which included closing or reorganizing 75 to 100 of the 600 directly operated stores in China and other markets during 2014, and reducing 30-40% of its original 350 product lines. By the end of 2016, Crocs had lost money for four consecutive years. Along with the 2016 financial report, Crocs also announced that by the end of 2018, it would close about 160 underperforming stores of the 558 global stores, reducing the number to around 400.

During the low valley from 2009 to 2016, on one hand, the company changed management, quickly cleared inventory; on the other hand, it built a new management team to actively respond to changing consumer trends, completely changing the previous model focusing on wholesale and complemented by direct retail. It gradually adjusted to a coordinated approach of direct retail, online e-commerce, and wholesale. Afterwards, Crocs' sales growth owes greatly to the growth in its DTC model and e-commerce retail.

In recent years, Crocs has gradually found its way.

Previously, the messy business lines and excessive SKUs brought confusion to market communication. So Crocs started to refocus on the most core product lines, and achieved more effective market spending through closing inefficient stores, reducing investment in smaller regional markets, etc.

The “ugly” Crocs has also taken big steps into the fashion field leveraging its unique shape. Not only has it appeared frequently at fashion shows, it has also collaborated with many well-known brands, celebrities or designers to launch co-branded products, such as Balenciaga, MCM, KFC, Christopher Kane, Ouyang Nana, etc.

Currently, North America remains Crocs’ major market, accounting for 44.3% of total second quarter 2023 revenue. Asia Pacific became its second largest market, accounting for 18.5% of revenue. But "accelerating layout in the Asian market" has been explicitly stated as a strategic move by Crocs, which views China as the market with the greatest growth potential.

Frankie Taylor once said that for any brand, the core of setting trends is to establish uniqueness, and convey this uniqueness very clearly to the market. More than ten years ago, Crocs triggered a trend because of this. Today, with clog shoes so prevalent everywhere, is it as the brand wished?

Let's find out about the latest model of Croc Lights.

  • 【Super Bright & Extra Free 4 Batteries】The croc headlights for clogs shoes can run for 72 hours, and light up 33 feet away, for outdoor walks for some extra lighting. Giving you enough power to enjoy outdoor activity in the evening without fear of darkness! Our croc headlights attentively extra come with four extra batteries. You needn't worry about darkness or running out of battery while on an outdoor activity.
  • 【Trendy Hidden Switch Design】The croc headlights are easy to use, you only need to press on the head of the light to turn it On/Off and switch 3 different light modes to meet your different needs of illumination. (Always on / Fast flashing / Slow flashing )
  • 【Easy to Carry & Attach】 These croc headlights for shoes weigh 0.75 oz, have a diameter of 0.9 inches, and you can easily carry them wherever you go. Crock lights also are easy to clip on your shoes and stay in place stable. Suitable for children over 4 years old and adult shoes.
  • 【Wide Application 】 These croc headlights for adult/kids shoes are designed for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers who need a reliable and bright source of light. Whether you're hiking, camping, dog walking, or going for a night run, this croc headlight is a choice you can't afford to miss.
  • 【IPX5 Waterproof Level】The headlights for crocs adopt a silicone ring sealing interface, can easily and effectively deal with rainstorm weather and the dew on the grass when camping, and are made of high-quality aluminum alloy, anti-drop, and anti-rust. You don't need to worry about damage when using these croc lights in extreme weather.
croc lights Wide Application

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