RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
The slowing economy is only one reason that Crocs have tanked. Crocs are those brightly colored plastic clogs dotted with holes that were all the rage last year. No more. The Colorado-based company has now closed a manufacturing plant in Canada and laid off about 1,300 workers. And Crocs' stock price has fallen 90 percent over the last year. NPR's Jeff Brady reports the company is trying new ways to survive.
JEFF BRADY: Standing on the 16th Street mall in downtown Denver - and let me tell you, when it comes to Crocs, people have very strong feelings.
HAILEY NORBERG: I think they suck. They look stupid.
LLOYD LOVE: I mean, there are a few people around in our neighborhood that wear Crocs, but we clown them though.
ASHLEY DIXON: They're comfortable, but they're stupid. I think they're ugly.
BRADY: That was Hailey Norberg, Lloyd Love and Ashley Dixon. All think the time for Crocs has well passed.
And sensing that something once very popular has fallen, others are piling on. There's the I Hate Crocs blog. It contains videos demonstrating various ways to destroy the brightly colored clogs, such as with fireworks.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)
Unidentified Man #1: Do not try this at home.
NORBERG: Oh, I only got one, but it's starting to burn.
BRADY: The company even acknowledged this phenomenon recently in a television advertisement featuring a man staring at a blue Crocs shoe and screaming.
(SOUNDBITE OF TELEVISION ADVERTISEMENT)
(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAMING)
Unidentified Man #2: Why are you wearing these? Why? Why? Why?
BRADY: But clearly not everyone hates Crocs. Even with an expected 20 percent decline in U.S. sales this year, the company will bring about $800 million. During a recent webcast, CEO Ron Snyder didn't talk about his company's image. Instead, he blamed the economy for Crocs' financially troubles.
RON SNYDER: The combination of a very challenging economic environment, a sharp downturn in mall traffic, and retailers becoming more and more cautious with the frequency and quantity of their reorders...
BRADY: The company also has had to deal with lawsuits, patent problems in Europe, competition from knockoffs, and reports that a few kids wearing Crocs got them stuck in escalators, causing some injuries. The company now includes a warning label with each pair of shoes.
Jeff Mintz is an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities, which was involved in Crocs' initial public stock offering.
JEFF MINTZ: A lot of people believe that it's the end for the company, and I don't think so. I think they have a viable strategy now.
BRADY: In May, the company hired a new marketing expert who used to work for Nike. And Crocs is developing new shoes that barely resemble its clogs. The company also plans to tailor its line to the stores where they're sold, so the Crocs you find at Macy's will be different than those at REI.
MINTZ: It's probably something the company should've done, you know, 18 months or two years ago, having, you know, anticipating the end of a fad, which always comes.
BRADY: Mintz compares the company's stock fiasco to the high tech bust nearly a decade back. At the first sign of bad news, Crocs investors lost confidence in the company and the stock plunged. He says the company now has to rebuild that faith and convince investors and consumers that Crocs is more than just a passing fad.
Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.
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