Of all the apparel trends embraced by Gen Z, the "ugly shoe" movement is probably one of the more head-scratching, at least for members of the older generations. And perhaps no brand has profited more from the shifting tastes of "the teens" than Crocs, the maker of those plastic clogs that were once the domain of kitchen workers and suburban dads but now are ーsomehow ー the must-have footwear item for a new generation of cool kids.
That's not an accident.
Andrew Rees, president and CEO of Crocs ($CROX), told Cheddar on Tuesday about the company's very deliberate strategy, which resulted in another blowout quarter last week, when Crocs reported Q3 earnings that showed a 20 percent year-over-year revenue increase.
"We've made ourselves incredibly relevant with a new consumer group," Rees said, pointing to the popularity of the brand among young shoppers.
The flagship Crocs clog gained new relevance among teenagers with the trend of adding customizable "charms" to the shoe, which Crocs sells separately and allows for "the shoe to tell a story," as Rees put it. Those charms have become so popular they are now one of the company's four main revenue streams, Rees said.
Those clogs still represent 63 percent of the company's revenue, according to Rees, but it has also been successful in diversifying its product line to include sandals and other "visible comfort" lines of footwear including slippers, sneakers, and loafers.
Crocs has also maintained a buzzy appeal through high-profile collaborations with celebrities and tastemakers, from the rapper Post Malone to the ultra-hip streetwear brand PizzaSlime. Last week, the country music star Luke Combs announced his latest Crocs collab on social media. The first was so popular it sold out immediately when Combs dropped it at the CMA Festival earlier this year.
In addition, Crocs has closed around 150 stores over the last few years as a way to juice demand and give the brand a sense of street cred that it had been lacking for most of its 20-odd year existence. The Q3 earnings came in above expectations despite store closures causing about $4 million in losses.
That all adds up to topline growth that would have been nearly unthinkable a few years ago. Piper Jaffray recently named Crocs the seventh most popular footwear brand for Gen Z this fall, up from 19 in the spring.
And Rees told Cheddar that, for the first time in the company's history, it will turn a fourth-quarter profit, which is typically the worst season for the summer-focused brand.