Crocs are having a moment and one of the demographics fueling its success is the teenage crowd.
In Piper Jaffray’s latest semiannual Taking Stock With Teens survey, Crocs surged in the footwear category. The Colorado-based company hopped from No. 19 in the spring to No. 7 for the fall.
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To understand what’s driving the interest among young people, FN went straight to the source and quizzed local teens and footwear experts about the clog resurgence.
The Youth Perspective
Ellie Schaumberger, a 17-year-old from River Vale, N.J., said, “I wear my Crocs literally every day to school and whenever I go out, unless I’m going somewhere to dress up, then I change to sneakers.”
She is hardly alone. Multiple people FN spoke with noted that the Classic Clog silhouette has become a staple among high school athletes, in particular, with teens pointing out that part of the appeal rests in the comfort and how easy the shoes are to slip on and off.
Schaumberger, for instance, said she initially wore Crocs when her high school basketball team decided to all buy matching pairs. Though she was reluctant at first, considering them to be “weird shoes,” she has since changed her tune thanks to the comfort and some positive feedback from peers.
Ava Iannetta, a 16-year-old from White Plains, N.Y., recalled that she “bought them because my friends convinced me, too, and because they’re trendy.” But she has quickly become a fan. “They’re actually really practical and convenient, especially for athletes. And the Jibbitz [charms] make it fun to be able to personalize them to your taste,” Iannetta added.
The Jibbitz embellishments, which Crocs has been selling since it acquired the brand in 2006, offer customers the chance to enhance their clogs with rubberized charms that snap into the holes on the shoes. Designs range from initials and astrological signs to rainbows and puppy dogs. Not only are the charms accessibly priced, at about $3.99 each, but they answer the growing trend toward mass customization, which has become an increasing expectation of Generation Z and millennial consumers.
“[Our Jibbitz buyer is] a consumer who wants to fit in and look like friends but also wants to be different. [Buyers] talk about the trend toward mass personalization, mass customization. It’s hard in footwear,” said Michelle Poole, chief product and merchandising officer for Crocs. “With our Jibbitz charms, you can go to a point of sale where Crocs are sold, and you can make them your own instantly.”
Dylan Van Bramer, a 16-year-old from Valhalla, N.Y., said she’s become “famous” for her color-coded Jibbitz on each pair of her Crocs. The teen added that she and her friends take the customization aspect beyond the charm embellishments: “My friends and I even trade out straps sometimes for an extra pop of color,” she explained.
How Crocs Did It
The surge in Gen Z fandom has coincided with a streak of blockbuster sale numbers for Crocs. For the third quarter, revenues rose 19.8% to $312.8 million, besting Wall Street’s expectations of $302.1 million. The brand also reported earnings of 57 cents per share, beating consensus bets of 40 cents.
The current brand momentum is welcome news for the shoemaker, which had been experiencing a period of softness.
“There was definitely a while where Crocs hadn’t refreshed its marketing to talk to a younger consumer,” said Poole. “The brand was getting older and frankly a bit more male. But we’ve definitely changed that; we are now targeting younger females over the world.”
Crocs’ modernized marketing strategy is multifaceted, harnessing high-profile celebrity endorsements, edgy fashion collaborations and the power of social media.
As part of its revamped efforts, Crocs has embraced TikTok, a social media video app that’s had enormous popularity among teenagers. Its #ThousandDollarCrocs challenge went viral on the app last month, with over 2.2 billion views. The clog maker also taps its social fans for design suggestions, at times making decisions about what colors and Jibbitz charms to add, based on netizen feedback, according to Poole.
In addition, recent partnerships with celebrities such as Zooey Deschanel and Post Malone have been big buzz generators. Just last week, Priyanka Chopra joined the roster of A-list endorsers.
“It’s a patchwork quilt we stitched together — there isn’t one view of who a Crocs ambassador or a Crocs celebrity is, or what you should look like to wear Crocs. That is the whole strategy,” said Poole.
Stars not formally affiliated with the company have also fueled excitement over the clogs, among them Serena Williams, Justin Bieber and perhaps most notably Ariana Grande. A diverse lineup of collaborations with brands such as Vera Bradley, Chinatown Market and Alife have helped garner attention as well.
Amid its latest popularity boost, the brand has also fine-tuned its merchandising strategy to focus on its core clogs and sandals. “We cut off a lot of product extensions that just weren’t really right for Crocs,” said Poole. The Classic Clog remains the biggest sales driver for the brand.
But that begs the question: How does Crocs keep customers, particularly fickle teens, coming back if there is little actual product differentiation?
“We’re pivoting and focusing a little more on color and trend,” explained Molly Wilhelm, a product specialist at the brand. “In thinking about what’s great about our iconic clog, we were thinking, ‘How do we start to expand silhouettes that our consumers will love and buy from us?'”
To introduce newness for spring ’20, the brand is expanding with neon colors and adding two new silhouettes: a platform clog with a more feminine shape and a slide sandal version of the clog. But worry not, teens: Both include plenty of room for Jibbitz.
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