Crocs continues to hold a top spot in the lightweight footwear category with everything from its iconic Classic clog to novelty sandals in its colorful Gemlite jelly material. While the brand has had its ups and downs over the years, it continues to draw celebrities such Drew Barrymore into its fold. Here, Michelle Poole, its SVP of global product and marketing, talks about raising the brand’s profile by tapping into the designer and celebrity worlds.
Crocs has weathered many market shifts over the years. Why does it have such staying power?
“The beauty of our brand is that we sell to all genders and generations, so we have universal appeal. [Since] no one outgrows the need for comfort, we can bring consumers into our brand as toddlers. It might be the very first shoe they wear and the very last shoe they buy in their life. We’re also able to access all genders because women sometimes find us through buying for their kids and then discover something for [themselves]. Or women buy shoes for the men in their lives, while sometimes guys shop for themselves.”
How important are collaborations to the label?
“They remain important in the marketplace, but you have to be careful about consumer fatigue if there are too many. They have to be meaningful. When we worked with Balenciaga and Christopher Kane last year, we brought something really exciting to the runways and were able to show the relevance of our iconic clog in that space. Now, working with Drew Barrymore, we feel her fierce, lovable and fun personality has made for a unique perspective for our brand. When you partner with someone who brings something new to the table, the consumer wins.”
There has been a lot of attention recently around the Classic clog. What’s behind that?
“The silhouette is easy to wear, and we have some great licensed products around it. If someone has an affinity for the outdoors or hunting, we have Real tree camouflage styles. Or we have a Minnie Mouse collection. The clog serves as a blank canvas, allowing [consumers] to wear it however they want. As a result, we see nurses, promgoers, sports teams, gardeners and fashionistas adopting this look. The personalization of the clog with our Jibbitz ornaments has also connected with our consumers. We’ve had an amazing response and added letters, numbers, emojis and charms.”
Crocs built its business around its lightweight Croslite compound. How important are technologies like that for the brand?
“Croslite is one of our key ingredients. We feel incredibly freed by having such a clear DNA and a product team that continuously energizes [the brand] by leveraging both existing and new technology. We also have Gemlite, another TPU injection-molded compound that we use for our Isabella collection of jellies. [Gemlite is] a translucent, flexible, lightweight material that brings fun and very feminine styling to the beach and pool-wearing occasions.”
What role do the Crocs stores play in promoting brand identity?
“It remains an important part of our portfolio. We have been pretty transparent in our communication around some of the store rationalization we’ve done over the past couple of years. [A net 25 percent reduction in store count is underway, bringing it to about 400 by year-end.] But we remain committed to these retail channels. It provides us with a fantastic opportunity to tell a broader brand story to a consumer than we might otherwise get in a wholesale environment.”
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