It’s actually quite hard not to have a view on Crocs.
LOCATION Lower Level, Unit 69, Bluewater, Kent
SIZE 1,291 sq ft
DESIGN The One Off, London
TOTAL STORES GLOBALLY 439
For most people, the brand is characterised by the clog, a lightweight, sandal-like piece of moulded footwear. A clog has straps and holes to let the feet breathe and comes in bright colours. And for most people, it seems as if Crocs have been around forever.
Yet the US-headquartered brand is only celebrating its 10th year in business and during its relatively brief life it has established more than 400 company-owned retail outlets, with 38 of these in Europe, 11 of which are in the UK.
And since last week, Bluewater in Kent is the location of a global first for Crocs, with a new-look store aimed at changing perceptions of the brand as a cheap and cheerful option catering for those heading for sand, rock pools and the briny. And anybody who takes a look around this one will certainly be made aware of the width of the Crocs range – this is a brand that is about more comfort than clogs.
01 - Visual Merchandising
Crocs, as displayed in Bluewater, are certainly about the beach – there’s a large poster in each of the windows inviting shoppers to ‘Rule the beach’. A beachwear brand then and one that will find favour in the summer. Yet, beneath the images of tanned, fresh-skinned women posing in a sand and sea setting, there are plinths that carry everything from flip-flops to cork wedges. This is about the beach but it is concerned with showing a broad range of alternatives to the clog. Inside the store, there is the almost unavoidable semi-circular rear perimeter wall feature, but there is a lot more besides with a New England feel in terms of the VM props and the well-scrubbed types in the wall graphics.
02 - Concept
This 1,291 sq ft store is, for the time being, a one-off and fittingly Crocs has employed a design company called The One Off to create the interior, which brings a lot of the footwear off the walls and into the mid-shop. For the most part, clogs are located around the perimeter, but if you want to inspect a pair of shoes that are Converse-like or to check out “sneakers that breathe easy”, the centre-floor is where these are to be found.
03 - Service
The day of visiting was actually the day before the official store opening, but Crocs has an eye on the main chance when it comes to a promotion. A long queue had formed outside the shop with the first 10 shoppers being offered 10 pairs of Crocs over 10 months to celebrate the brand’s 10th anniversary.
It’s a measure of the efficacy of Crocs’ marketing that on a midweek day there were happy smiling faces waiting in line to see if they might be the recipient of this generous freebie.
04 - Product
The base product, the clog, comes in at £29.99 and then heads upwards depending on whether you opt for ballet pumps, trainers, cork wedge sandals or, later in the season, boots. There are, of course, the flip-flops (cheaper), sold in almost as many colours as the clogs. In total there are around 300 SKUs in the range, with a further 100 being added this season. But there is a sense that much of what’s on view is a matter of taking existing styles and then adding a Crocs twist rather than a Crocs fashion.
05 - Competition
It’s tempting to say that brands such as Havaianas might act as competition for the Crocs clog wearer, but they are different demographics. If you like clogs, then this is where to find them and equally, if you like your footwear to be lightweight then Crocs Bluewater is certainly worth considering. The mall is filled with retailers offering summer footwear at the moment and the competition will inevitably be robust. There are more inexpensive options if you’re looking for beach-led footwear, although in terms of variations on a theme, there are few who will be able to match this offer.
06 - VERDICT - A selling job to be done
There are Crocs clog lovers out there and many of them will be heading for Bluewater to take a look at this shop. The aim of this store however is to widen the franchise by offering a range that will have a generally broader appeal. As a retail space, the shop works hard to help this process on its way, but there remains the nagging doubt that this is about buying a pair of clogs. This is not to say the aim will not be achieved – the store is good-looking, but there is still a selling job to be done to convert the mildly sceptical.