What a Croc!

A year ago, plenty of people were dubious about the prospects of Crocs, the Niwot-based manufacturer of comfy-but-ugly plastic shoes. The company had soared to the top of bad-fashion lists and was about to go public. Skeptics suggested this was just a way for the initial investors to cash in before the whole daffy phenomenon went the way of mood rings and pet rocks.

But lo and behold, the fad has legs. Crocs stock didn't tank after the IPO; in fact, it's up 35 percent in the most recent quarter, just a few dollars off its all-time high, and cable screamer James Cramer expects it to keep on truckin'. Three years after Crocs peddled just 76,000 pairs of its crayon-colored, double-wide boat shoes, the company expects to move 20 million units by the end of 2006, from an expanded product line (see it here) that includes weird variants on mary janes and ballet slippers.

And the hottest news in local business circles isn't Google's acquisition of YouTube. It's the fact that Crocs has snapped up Jibbitz, a Boulder company that makes doodads that go in the holes of your Crocs, in a deal that could be worth as much as $20 million. How many fads stick around long enough to swallow their own cottage industry of accessorizers?

The insiders are still peeling off their shares. The long-term appeal of casual footwear that suggests you just escaped from lockup is as questionable today as it was when we explored the craze in grisly detail in "A Really Big Shoe," in the October 13, 2005 issue. But on Wall Street these days, ugly is beautiful.—Alan Prendergast

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