We caught up with Crocs (CROX) CEO John McCarvel at the National Retail Federation’s annual expo, where he was receiving the award for Retail Innovator of the Year. And we couldn’t help but notice that he wasn’t wearing Crocs.
“It’s one of the first times in, like, five years that I’ve ever not [worn Crocs],” he said when quizzed about his choice of footwear. As you might expect, he explained that he thought it better to go with dress shoes when accepting an award at a major industry conference.
But the idea of a CEO wearing Crocs in public isn’t as crazy as it might sound. While many consumers still associate the brand name with the rubber clogs that made it famous, the company has branched out considerably into other types of footwear, including boots, loafers, golf shoes and flats for women. And McCarvel adds that the company sells even dressier varieties of shoes in Europe. So yes, there are styles that you could wear in a business-casual setting.
Still, he expressed skepticism that the company would ever go so far as to produce dress shoes for the American market, and he recalled the time he had to tell CNN’s Richard Quest that the company would likely never produce brogues. One of McCarvel’s challenges is to expand the Crocs brand beyond the clog without straying too far from its casual image.
So far, it seems to be going well: Clogs now represent less than half of the company’s total revenue. Continuing to shift that brand perception will be helped along by its investment in retail stores, and McCarvel says the company plans to add between 75 and 125 new stores this year on top of the 538 it already has open.
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.