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Photo courtesy of Crocs.

Inside an Amazing Year for Crocs

Love them or hate them, Crocs are survivors. Here's how the near-ubiquitous foam shoes pulled back from the brink.

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This time 10 years ago, it appeared Crocs, the footwear line many had condemned as a fad, would become exactly that. Over-expansion and the recession were pushing the Niwot firm, founded in 2002, toward bankruptcy. “The company’s toast,” an analyst told the Washington Post in 2009. “They’re zombie-ish. They’re dead, and they don’t know it.” Crocs has largely treaded water ever since—until 2018, when its stock suddenly became one of the most virile on the market. We spoke with the company’s senior vice president and chief product and merchandising officer, Michelle Poole, to rehash 2018 and find out how refocusing on the original clog, trend-spotting, and Post Malone helped turn Crocs from a bear into a bull.

January 8

Stock price: $13.23
Actor turned fashion icon Shia LeBeouf is spotted in blue Crocs clogs, inspiring prophetic think pieces such as GQ.com’s “Wearing Crocs In 2018 Is Going To Be A Thing If Shia LeBeouf Has Anything To Say About It.

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February 28

Stock price: $12.24
Crocs announces 2017 revenue of $1.02 billion, down slightly from the year before, when the company said it would shutter 158 retail stores in a streamlining effort. “Crocs had lost its way,” Poole says. “Over-distributed, too focused on entering categories where we didn’t have a real fit.” So athletic and dress lines were cut to concentrate on what Poole calls Crocs’ “icon”: the clog.

Crocs’ cushy LightRides. Photo courtesy of Crocs.

March 2

Stock price: $13.63
For the first time, Crocs announces a collection featuring a new material for its shoes. Called LiteRide, the cushy element is supposedly 40 percent softer and 25 percent lighter than the proprietary Croslite foam resin used in the classic clog.

April 9

Stock price: $16.61
Crocs unveils a Snapchat filter that turns clogs into hats. Four million people don the virtual headgear over 10 days. “We can poke a little fun at ourselves,” Poole says. “Our customers love that we do that.”

May 8

Stock price: $16.21
First-quarter revenue beats predictions, thanks in part to LiteRide shoe sales surpassing company expectations. (Crocs made $16.5 million in net income, $5.5 million more than 2017’s first quarter.)

August 1

Stock price: $17.71
“Our customers, by and large, are not early adopters,” Poole says. “They’re followers.” So, since 2014 Crocs has sent a team to couture capitals like Milan to scout upcoming trends. Designers in Crocs’ Niwot headquarters then incorporate those styles into their products. For example: Around when school begins in 2018, floral colors and platforms debut, helping Crocs jump from the 27th-most-popular footwear brand among teens to 13th.

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August 7

Stock price: $17.64
The company announces plans to close the last of its self-operated factories. Despite speculation that it’s going out of business, Crocs says it can manufacture less expensively through third-party plants. “FALSE ALARM: We aren’t going anywhere,” Crocs tweeted—though the spike in sales from rabid fans stocking up on clogs did later give its shares a boost.

November 1

Stock price: $20.78
Crocs partners with rapper Post Malone on a limited-edition clog (it sold out in 10 minutes), one of many high-profile collabs. Such alliances began in 2016, when designer Christopher Kane sent models down the runway wearing earthy-hued Crocs. “[High-fashion clogs] won’t drive the lion’s share of our revenue,” Poole says, “but it does put us in a more relevant place from a style point of view.”

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