Could This Finally Be The End Of Crocs?

The company that somehow popularized colorful plastic clogs is closing 100 stores and cutting jobs after major drops in profits.

Crocs, the U.S. firm responsible for those shoes that look like what Ronald McDonald’s children might wear, has announced it'll close 100 of its 600 stores around the world following a 44% drop in profits in the last three months. The company plans to lay off about 180 of its 5,000 employees, and will also slash its product range by 30% to 40%, offering fewer styles. The announcement smells like victory for the anti-Croc movement of sorts that spawned an "I Hate Crocs" blog and a Facebook page titled "I Don’t Care How Comfortable Crocs Are, You Look Like A Dumbass," which has 1.5 million likes.

Crocs were born in 2002 as boating footwear. Unfortunately, they didn’t stay at sea for long. Lauded for being supremely comfortable, the shoes soon became a favorite of "crocophile" celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and chef Mario Batali, who has a Crocs line named after him. George W. Bush, too, wore the shoes in public (another reason he’ll forever be on the wrong side of history). By 2005, the company was producing a million shoes a month, and by 2007, had hit $850 million in annual sales.

Image: Crocs via Flickr/ Rupert Ganzer

But by 2008, Croc-love was waning as consumers slowly came to their senses, and the company suffered a major drop in sales. They tried hard to regain their former glory by expanding their design selections: they made high-heeled leather Crocs, wedges, sneakers, winter boots, and leather boating shoes. The strategy worked, for a while—in 2011, they made $150 million in profits—but ultimately proved to be overexpansion. They’re now cutting the leather boots and dress shoes, and downsizing the company to survive—layoffs include 70 jobs at their Colorado headquarters. "We have a clear, well-defined strategy for addressing these issues and improving performance," company president Andrew Rees said in a statement. "Work is under way already to drive significant change throughout our company."

Will fashion historians of the future see the Crocs phenomenon as a sign of a deeply sick society, the way we look back in horror at 18th-century corsets and bustles, or lead makeup, or mullets? Discuss.

[H/T The Guardian]

[Image: Crocs via Shutterstock / EM Arts ]

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24 Comments

  • votolatino

    another example of how can chinesse industry can close a nice company just by selling fake and bad quality copied stuff

  • To me, Crocs are proof that it is possible to make footwear that is uglier than an earth shoe. The only plastic shoe I'll wear in public is an Okabashi.

  • They are my slippers, brilliant in the house, comfortable, supportive, great for decorating and gardening; you can wash most things off them. But I would rather die than wear them outside......

  • They are my slippers, brilliant in the house, and for decorating and gardening, it is possible to wash anything off them. Would rather die than wear them outside.....

  • Reminds of the Kickers shoe craze in the 70's, similar pattern of steep rise followed by sharp decline, especially after people discovered that the ridges on the soles of their shoes were hollow, wore through rapidly and then cracked upwards on both sides to eventually split the sole into separate front and back pieces...

  • Nathanial Poling

    Apparently the author never had little kids, while the fashion trend for adults was short-lived anyone with kids under 4 know that these shoes are wonderful. The kids love to wear them and they need no help getting them on. Not to mention they are waterproof/pee proof.

  • 41a8bd20

    Crocs would have been more successful if they stayed in department\chain stores and never branched out into boutique outlets -- that is the exclusive domain of finely-crafted, finely-designed, high-demand-fashion, or highly-prized-branded apparel -- none of which applies to Crocs. Without that, they could never justify the exorbitant prices that a designer label can charge, nor sustain the overheads of running their own outlets. Crocs were a popular fad, but poor design + average quality + high price does not equal a long-term sustainable business model. However they will probably still slide into a slow death by returning to chain stores like Target where they will compete with the plethora of 80% cheaper knock-offs.

  • Ariel Leggett

    I have mixed feelings about Crocs. My youngest daughter loves them. They are practical for kids because they are waterproof, antimicrobial, and totally washable. I personally think the original design is hideous, and have never put one on.

    I have admired some of their newer, more stylish fashions - I guess they lost their share of that market to Aerosoles, and the like... Not to mention, cheap Croc knock-offs are available at every Family Dollar, Wal-Mart and similar type discount store.

    Overall, Crocs products just aren't that special any more. Perhaps they could take a hint from Tom's, Planet Shoes, et al. I will be interested to see how their survival plan unfolds.

  • Joel Emmett

    I realize that styles change, but I'm tired of the harshing on clogs.

    I live in an area with lots of Danish people, so perhaps I'm accustomed to the notion of clogs, but Crocs -- and its many copycats, a major reason why the company's fortunes may have declined -- are eminently practical, very good for your feet, very comfortable, last longer than many leather shoes -- and are inexpensive, which is a major concern for most people on planet Earth.

    Human feet are stubby. Sorry if many shoes are, too, like Crocs. Pointing that out doesn't make one terribly clever or suddenly popular.

    But please don't harsh on these so much that everyone -- including the poor -- can only go back to wearing ill-fitting, uncomfortable, unhealthy, expensive and/or terribly worn-out shoes. Which is what most people do, with negative consequences for all.

  • It could have all been so different: For a very brief moment, they were sort of interesting.

    They could have pushed for the world of festivals or clubbing, becoming a new wellington or Nike Air Max, but they chose to go for kids and mothers, as uncool as is humanly possible. That and if you ever wore a pair, they would cut your feet if you didn't wear socks, another cool fail. A rise & rise followed by, what looks like a big fall. Not surprised

  • Julie Scott

    I agree, as someone interested in product design and evolution, I watch crocs with fascination. To be an icon (like the Nike Air Jordan etc.) you have to understand the characteristics of iconic, and the team at Crocs have not dug deep enough in understanding their own product. Take Hunter boots, once a rubber boot that english farmers wore to trek through mud is now being sold at Nordstroms for $150 and pulled out by posh girls at the slightest hint of drizzle in the city. Hunters do one thing and they do it well. And in a flooded market of well-designed sneakers Nike Air Jordans have a solid point of view and a personality consumers want to be associated with, and this is what is missing from crocs. They need to get rid of the rubbish and do some soul searching if they are going to survive!

  • For a moment there I thought I'd ended up on Perez Hilton's blog.

    Never mind whether this is the end of Crocs, this is certainly the end of quality journalism on Fast CoDesign.

  • Seriously, a Bush put down in an article about shoe design and business? We'll see fairly soon how our current President fairs with respect to history, and so far it isn't looking pretty... but I'd never be so pleased with my own personal political beliefs to include that in an article for FastCo Design.

  • So, it was necessary to inject your political leanings into an article about hideous shoes? I wonder how historians will view the utter collapse of journalism...