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DDI Magazine

Crocs makes a splash

By Janet Groeber
October 08, 2012

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Photo: Richard Booth
It’s been 10 years since Crocs, creator of the now world-renowned slip-on clog, stepped onto the fashion stage and took a bite of the multibillion-dollar footwear market. Since then, the Niwot, Colo.-based manufacturer has sold more than 150 million pairs of lightweight, comfortable shoes made of its flexible, proprietary Croslite material.

Today, there are more than 300 styles of clogs, flip-flops, sandals, heels, wedges, boots, licensed products and even lace-up golf shoes. They are sold online, in department and specialty stores, and through 180 company-owned stores and kiosks operating in 129 countries. Crocs sells more than 40 million pairs of shoes annually, with about half of its revenue coming from it

The Crocs name is synonymous with its colorful clog, so it’s no wonder the entire back wall of its new 1,400-sq.-ft. flagship is devoted to its ubiquitous top performer. “Love it or hate it, this company was built on the clog,” says David
Curtis, Crocs’ director of global store planning and design. “It’s part of our heritage, and we decided to embrace it.”

The flagship, which debuted in June in southeast London’s Bluewater Shopping Centre, is part of the brand’s expansion strategy for bricks-and-mortar retail stores. For the new store, Curtis says the company wanted to give the clog a focal place in the store, “but also try to elevate the product itself and make it appear a little more premium.”

To do that, more than 50 clogs have been placed in color-blocked profile on the niche wall. Behind each shoe is a pullout drawer housing backstock, allowing the display to also function as a storage unit. The large focal wall is dramatically lit to draw customers through the store, which is zoned women’s, men’s and kids.

The higher-end merchandising technique of the rear wall indeed elevates the brand by going beyond Crocs’ wholesale model that typically uses self-serve hanging product displays. Crocs’ new Bluewater store is a hybrid of assisted- and self-service, because the new prototype designs need to unify the Crocs brand across its multiple selling channels—which includes its own stores, as well as wholesale accounts, Curtis says.

To create that unifying design, Crocs commissioned London-based retail and interior design consultancy The One Off to partner on the fast-track project, little more than four months in the making. From the start, the firm’s goal was to
elevate the visual merchandising, while still retaining a number of Crocs’ assortment requirements. “Our job was building on the success of Crocs as a well-loved family brand,” explains Adam Devey Smith, managing partner of The One Off. “We wanted to create a softer, warmer environment to showcase Crocs’ new product ranges, while celebrating the brand’s foundation.”

Crocs, which actually started out as a spa shoe, unveiled its “Beach” model in 2002 at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show and sold out an initial 200-pair run. The new Bluewater store attempts to translate that event into a new aesthetic, with a beach theme that incorporates a palette of natural materials ranging from rough wood to lacquered metals to raw concrete and glass. The focus is on a combination of simple materials with a hand-finished quality suggesting “refined rawness,” Smith says.

Through the glass-fronted façade, customers can clearly take in the variety of styles presented on “bleacher”-like risers recalling lobster traps. The reclaimed, rough-sawn pine-wood risers at the entrance give way to natural-wood slatted tables, where more new styles have been strategically placed.

A combination of clap-style shingles and whitewashed slats add character to wall 
surfaces, which also are punctuated with colorful, large-format lifestyle graphics—a first for Crocs.Flooring is a flecked charcoal vinyl that provides a hardworking, neutral backdrop for both fixturing and customer seating. A number of benches have been upholstered in luxurious leather—either in grassy green studded leather or bright orange textured and perforated leather.

Meanwhile, brand loyalists can easily negotiate the store themselves. A collection of spinners—fully stocked with forward-facing hanging pairs—are grab-and-go ready. These self-service spinners also enable the store to flex from
seasonal promotions to high-density sale time without adding additional fixtures. The One Off and Crocs teams also designed a family of more than two dozen additional fixtures, displayers and sign holders to strengthen and unify the line’s new direction.

By focusing on Crocs’s brand authenticity, elements of the beach-inspired Bluewater prototype can be delivered across multiple markets and global retail formats to position Crocs as an innovative, fun and comfortable brand.

“Like the Levi’s 501 in the ’90s or the 1460 Dr. Martens Boot in the 2000s, the key is celebrating the brand’s credibility and delivering great product,” Smith says. “[Crocs] just needed a home that truly reflects this young brand’s personality.”