When speaking about the winners of the coronaconomy, we only hear about tech, tech, and tech, and we tend to forget other well-performing segments. Today, let's talk about the ugly and comfy footwear, which is on top.
Some numbers to get you started
You all know about Crocs, these ugly shoes initially designed for boat work, with clever little holes in them to evacuate water very fast. They settled down in our everyday lives as the shoes dads wear at home (or you do, but don’t tell).
Well things are changing for Crocs. They recently announced a record third quarter with $362 million sales, which is 15.7% higher than the same period last year. The Crocs stock – because yes, it is traded – quintupled since march 2020, from a mere $10 to a whopping $55. Say what you will, a 400% increase is enough to light up the eyes of any stock trader. Even though this astounding surged is due to the rebound from the stock fall in March, the stock is still up 32% compared to January 2020.
Crocs stock (Source: Investing.com)
Crocs also shines by comparison to the rest of the industry. Where overall US footwear sales are down 20%, Crocs does not seem to care, with sales that are up 48% this year. Now if this is not outperformance, I don’t know what is.
Although Crocs are reasonably priced, sold between $40 and $50 dollars, a relatively inexpensive price making them available to a big portion of the population, some pairs are being sold 8 times that price on the secondary market. Why is that?
Growth engine: on point influencer marketing
All this new hype takes us back to 2018, where Crocs started what would become one of its key growth strategy: colllabs. They started with Post Malone – popular tattooed rapper, very much liked by the public –, and then continued with very different celebrities such as country musician Luke Combs, Gangnam Style Korean artist Psy, The Grateful Dead and even companies like KFC. More recently, they also added Justin Bieber to their partner influencers list.
The last one to enter the circle was Bad Bunny, the reggaeton king from Puerto Rico who’s Crocs sold out in 16 minutes. Generally speaking, all of these unique Crocs design are sold out within an hour.
Bad Bunny's glow in the dark Crocs (Source: Crocs website)
Of course, Crocs are not necessarily the type of brand that popstars would want their name attached to. Hey, I would personally feel bad wearing them on a date. “Socks with Crocs” has been a popular mean punchline for a long time now. However, it’s precisely their ugliness and comfort that seduces subversive artists like Bad Bunny, who tend to reject classic style and fashion to favor comfort and show this “subversive cool” look.
Andre Rees, Crocs’ CEO, expressed himself about the collabs: “They drive social and digital impressions on a global basis and on an enormous scale. In addition, the dynamics of the consumer shopping on our website allows us typically to collect their email addresses and create a relationship with those consumers, which obviously has value beyond the sale of that collaboration… Given the portfolio of collaborations, and the different types of consumers that we’re bringing to the site, that obviously broadens our reach as a brand.” And I believe this is the whole point of it: tackling different segments with different collabs. Because whether we’re a rock, reggaeton or KFC fan, we all love comfort, which brings us to the next success factor.
The funniest - and ugliest - partnership you might ever see (Source: Business Insider)
An offering fitting a new microtrend
While the fashion industry was generally focusing on, well, looking good, it’s not really the case anymore. We’re in the middle of a new trend where Function beats Fashion. Chillness beats cuteness, feel-good beats showing off. You get the picture.
In a world where customers never spent so much time in the comfort of their home, the least of their worries is how they look. People working from home in their sweatpants with their hairs all messed up need Crocs because it is ultra-comfy and that they are anyway too lazy to tie shoes – did I mention they were looking for the ultimate form of comfiness ?
“Under the pandemic, frankly anything that you could call ‘comfortable’ has done well,” said Michelle Powel, Crocs President. “The slipper business is one of the few other footwear categories that’s up under COVID.”
Ultimate comfy (Source: Crocs website)
Not only that, but fashion is changing in general. There is a real anti-fashion movement, where uncool is the new cool. People like to dig new retro clothes, and for some, the uglier the better. And in terms of ugliness, Crocs are the perfect shoes to match your retro, cool, ugly outfit. Wearing socks and Crocs used to be one mean punchline, not anymore.
Finally, people working in hospitals wear Crocs because they need easily washable shoes. Earlier this year, Crocs donated 800’000 pairs to healthcare workers to help them in the fight against Covid-19. “When the pandemic hit, we saw healthcare workers and hospitals reach out to request our shoes as they sought comfort, ease on their feet as well of peace of mind, said Poole. Another great marketing hit for the company.
Ugly is the new cool (Source: Crocs website)
“Crocs won 2020” — Crocs’ 400% gain. Nestle’s $1B meal(kit). Exxon’s slow burn, in Snacks Daily Podcast
Why Crocs are the hottest shoes of 2020, in the StarTribune
Crocs bounce back as 'comfy becomes new norm', in the Guardian