Crocs Dives Deeper Into Kids’ Market

Crocs is looking to take an even bigger bite out of the kids’ business.

The Niwot, Colo.-based brand, whose original molded clog has been an enduring bestseller for children’s retailers since its launch in 2002, has been pushing to diversify its product offering and drive a more year-round business.

Due to the seasonal nature of the clogs, “back-to-school was a time of year when we weren’t very robust, but that’s changing,” said Shannon Myers, director of the kids’ division at Crocs, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of company sales. “We can really see in our bookings how the business is balancing out between the first and second halves of the year.”

In addition to its core styles, Crocs now offers ballet flats, Mary Jane shoes, loafers, sneakers and even insulated winter boots, retailing from $25 to $50. More-versatile and seasonally appropriate, many of the new styles incorporate upper materials such as suede, canvas and polyurethane. But the brand, which has built its name on its proprietary foam resin material, Croslite, will continue to use it in all footwear.

“Croslite is a key part of our DNA and what sets us apart from our competition,” Myers said, “but the new materials allow us to do different modes of adjustability and give the shoes a more stable fit.”

And as its children’s business grows, the Crocs team has focused more on playing up the fun factor. The new Chameleons series, launched in May, features shoes that change color in sunlight. “Crocs is really known for color, so we wanted to find innovative new ways to express this,” Myers said. “We’re all about making shoes that are fun and interactive for kids.” For the winter months, the brand plans to evolve the Chameleons concept with styles that change color in colder temperatures.

Such collections should help the brand capture a wider customer base, Myers said. “Our sweet spot is really that preschool age, but we’re starting to pick up more business in the older children’s sizes. We see a lot of opportunity for growth in that segment.”

Crocs also is appealing to youngsters with shoes that feature their favorite characters. The brand has a growing roster of entertainment licenses, including Disney Princesses, Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. And for spring ’12, it will add Lego and Mattel’s Barbie and Hot Wheels brands.

“Our licensing business is up dramatically from 2010 to 2011, and we’re continually taking on new properties,” Myers said. “Characters are a great way for us to resonate with kids and get them excited about Crocs.”

The brand’s retail partners are enthusiastic about the new children’s offerings.

“We’ve had a long-standing partnership with Crocs and have really seen it transition from a predominantly warm-weather shoe into a year-round business,” said Patrisha Sweeney, chief merchandising officer at Boston-based Shoebuy.com. “The new products [they’ve] developed each season raise the bar and keep the brand fresh.”

Sweeney added that while the e-tailer’s customers still can’t get enough of Crocs’ original clogs, they have been quick to embrace new styles from the brand.

Chula Vista, Calif.-based Marc & Mimi has seen its Crocs sales grow this past year, as the brand’s broader, more diverse product offering has attracted new customers, said Bebe Lashley, the boutique’s sales and marketing manager. “The new styles allow us to capture the customer who wasn’t interested in the classic Crocs shoes, so our business [with the brand] has really expanded.” Lashely noted that customers like the greater versatility of the sneakers, ballerinas and other new looks.

Such favorable comments are good news for Crocs, which is rebounding after several difficult years. However, the children’s category has remained a bright spot, said Sam Poser, an analyst at Sterne Agee. “Kids love the shoes, so Crocs’ kids’ business has really held on much better than its adults’ business. And it keeps getting better as the company continues to broaden the product mix and introduce fun, new offerings such as the Chameleons [color-changing shoes],” Poser said. “With all the new styles, Crocs is no longer counting on that one item, [the Cayman clog], so it’s now a true brand.”

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