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Crocs’ Michelle Poole on the Future of Footwear’s Unlikely Icon

“A lot of people have looked at the icon with fresh eyes over the last few years,” Michelle Poole tells Boardroom of Crocs’ famous clog. “and have brought exciting ways to make it feel new again.”

If we were to play a word association game for the hottest and hippest footwear brands, Crocs may not be the first one that comes to mind. But it cannot be denied that the company’s famous, comfortable, lightweight foam clogs with the holes at the top remain an industry staple that have achieved truly formidable levels of popularity.

The company said third-quarter revenue reached $626 million this year, a 73% increase year over year. Retail sales in the Americas went from $188 million in 2017 to $249 million last year. NBA players like Trail Blazers star guard CJ McCollum and Magic up-and-comer Cole Anthony have joined pop culture icons like Justin Bieber and Post Malone in endorsing the product.

At its awards show last week in New York City, Footwear News named Crocs its Shoe of the Year.

Crocs has collab’d with everyone from Balenciaga, Bieber, and KFC to Space Jam, Bad Bunny, and Hidden Valley Ranch on special edition clogs. When walking down the red carpet last week, Crocs president Michelle Poole was sporting a special Balenciaga Crocs heel.

Michelle Poole’s footwear at the 35th Annual Footwear News Achievement Awards on Nov. 30, 2021 (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Footwear News)

“Our brand, because of its uniqueness, because of its molded nature, because of its highly recognizable silhouette, has definitely been of interest to partners,” Poole told Boardroom. “And I think that when we’ve combined our unique DNA and silhouette with another partner’s unique personality or DNA, it’s created something really interesting.”

Crocs first boomed in popularity in the mid-2000s as an easy footwear brand of choice for everyone from children of all ages to even President George W. Bush and First Lady Michelle Obama.

The brand fell on some hard times for a large part of the 2010s before Andrew Rees took over as CEO in 2017, educating a new generation of fashion consumers on Crocs’ appeal.

“A lot of people have just really looked at the icon with fresh eyes over the last few years,” Poole said, “and have brought fun and exciting ways to make it feel very new again.”

Now Crocs are being worn by everyone from Nicki Minaj and Prince William to magicians and runway models.

“There are so many different ways to wear our iconic clog, you just see it showing up everywhere,” Poole said.

In its Q3 earnings report in October, Crocs said it expects 2022 revenue to increase 20% year over year. Overall, Poole thinks how the brand will evolve from here is by sticking to its roots, but building out iterations of its classic look.

That includes her current go-to shoe called the Classic Crush. It won’t be available for purchase until next year, but it’s a modern twist on the classic with a little more height and roundness, she said.

“We’ll remain really focused on keeping our icon relevant, but what you will see us doing is really developing our molded language, our product iconography, iterations around that classic clog, as well as being very purposeful in building out the sandal business,” Poole said. “We’ve been very public about that. We’ve got a large and growing sandal business, and we think there’s a great opportunity to keep growing that as well.”

With its brand entrenched with older consumers looking for a comfortable, no-frills fit to kids looking for cool colors and collaborations, Crocs aims to hit the sweet spot that allows a brand to be both entrenched and ascendant moving forward into each new year.

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About The Author
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung
Shlomo Sprung is a Senior Staff Writer at Boardroom. He has more than a decade of experience in journalism, with past work appearing in Forbes, MLB.com, Awful Announcing, and The Sporting News. He graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 2011, and his Twitter and Spotify addictions are well under control. Just ask him.