Crocs—those chunky, bright resin clogs that took the world by storm eleven years ago—have their fair share of haters. There are angry websites, articles and even catchy YouTube music videos dedicated to the eradication of the footwear. But the ranks of people not so keen on the clogs has one unexpected member: Crocs CEO John McCarvel.
In a recent interview with Businessweek, McCarvel said that the brand is seeking to expand beyond the polarizing clogs. His goal of doubling sales in five years has required focusing on other footwear, like wedges and sneakers. The company has even come out with a rubbery version of the trendy docksider style, as well as leopard-print ballet flats.
Crocs, which skyrocketed in popularity around 2006, took a big hit during the recession, and many began to wonder (and some, to hope) if the era of the clownish shoes was over. With an aggressive marketing campaign and expansion of offerings, though, the company clawed out of the recession under the leadership of McCarvel, who became CEO in 2010. Now, it’s a billion-dollar company starting to look like a comeback-kid.
Crocs has expanded to include more than 300 designs, including sandals, rain boots and fur-lined boots since its 2002 launch. The signature clogs only account for less than half of all sales. McCarvel, who earned the Retail Innovator of the Year Award in 2012, hasn’t been shy about sharing his goal of expanding beyond the original clogs. When he accepted the award, the CEO himself was not wearing Crocs.
For such a controversial choice in footwear, the shoes have gotten a lot of mileage on well-known feet. Adam Sandler, Iggy Pop, Rihanna, Sacha Baron Cohen and Angelina Jolie’s children have all been spotted in the footwear. Those celebrities join the ranks of nurses, boaters, gardeners and children who have adopted the shoe for its comfort, if not for its style. A 2005 Crocs ad campaign in magazines like Vanity Fair and the Rolling Stone took ownership of that image with the tagline, “Ugly can be beautiful.” But the company is striving to shed that reputation for one that doesn’t make the fashion-forward feel faint. By 2012, ads featured new lines of the shoes, like flats and golf shoes, and advertised style-acceptable footwear with the same comfort of the original clogs.
In fact, the flagship style has now been moved to the back of retail stores and catalogs. “If someone wants them, make them walk through all the new stuff first,” McCarvel told Businessweek. And from the sounds of it, there might just be plenty of new stuff for customers to walk past in the near future.