How Brand of the Year Crocs Took a Major Bite Out of the Market in 2020

On Dec. 8, Crocs will be honored as Brand of the Year at the first virtual FN Achievement Awards. Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 7 print issue about its winning streak.

Love them or hate them, Crocs are more popular than ever. Sales soared this year for the Niwot, Colo.-based footwear brand, even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic devastated much of the retail sector.

Although Crocs, like many companies, was forced to temporarily close its stores, it was the only footwear label to show sales growth in March, out of the top 30 tracked by market research firm The NPD Group Inc. And the momentum continued into the fall, as searches for the clogs jumped 41% in Q3, according to fashion search engine Lyst, and revenues rose 15.7% in the same quarter.

Crocs’ stellar performance can largely be attributed to its reputation as a leader in comfort. Since the rubber clogs debuted as a boating shoe in 2002, they have been adopted by workers who spend long hours on their feet, including health care and restaurant professionals. While COVID-19 shutdowns resulted in the loss of many service jobs, the pandemic has created high demand for the shoe among health care professionals serving on the front lines. And Crocs responded by donating over 860,000 pairs to them this year.

At the same time, average consumers also have embraced Crocs as they try to stay comfortable while quarantining at home.

“What 2020 has shown us is that Crocs brand is more relevant to consumers now than ever,” said Michelle Poole, who was promoted to president in September. “This has not only allowed us to remain top-of-mind during one of the most challenging periods in recent memory, but has given us an opportunity to showcase how our products can provide moments of relief and joy at a time when consumers are seeking that.”

High-profile collaborations have also brought major buzz. This year, Crocs partnered with musicians like Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny and Luke Combs, as well as fast-food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken on a drumstick-scented style. All four releases sold out within hours.

Crocs Justin Bieber
Crocs teamed up with Justin Bieber on a special collaboration.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Crocs

Additionally, the company signed Chinese actress and social media star Yang Mi to its star-studded roster of ambassadors, which also includes Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who will present the brand’s award.

Crocs’ current success isn’t a new phenomenon for the brand, however. Prior to the pandemic, the company delivered four consecutive quarters of better-than-expected earnings, thanks to its savvy decision to target young consumers, while also upping investments in digital marketing and hot collaborations.

Meanwhile, it also continues to expand its retail touchpoints. The company currently has 351 stores worldwide and sells in over 90 countries. It recently added Finish Line and Foot Locker to its growing list of wholesale partners.

“Crocs has been making some amazing moves in the footwear space,” said Mel Peralta, senior director of Greenhouse, Foot Locker’s incubator program aimed at connecting the retailer to youth culture. “For Greenhouse, we wanted to highlight what Crocs was doing with dedicated storytellers to get our shared consumers excited.”

crocs, priyanka chopra,
Priyanka Chopra Jonas wears the Crocs Classic Clogs.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Crocs

Alongside its emphasis on affordable, trend-right products, Peralta said the brand’s commitment to authenticity will continue to win over the next generation of consumers.

“Crocs doesn’t stray away from what it does best: quality, comfy footwear. It doesn’t try to be a basketball brand or a performance brand; its clogs are what you rock either on your way to the game, or after it,” he said. “So many kids grew up wearing Crocs, and now they’re once again identifying with the label they’ve loved for so long.”

For 34 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards ­— often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The first virtual FNAAs will air online on Dec. 8 at 6 p.m. ET and are presented in partnership with The Style Room Powered by Zappos, and sponsors FDRA, Deckers Brands, Soles4Souls and Foot Locker.

RSVP here for the biggest night in shoes! 

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