What began as a simple Québec made plastic sandel has marched to the top of the leisure footwear world.
"We started with nothing 11 years ago and now we have 420 employees," Andrew Reddyhoff, founder and president of Foam Creations Inc., said yesterday. "The tremendous growth and popularity of our products worldwide has been unbelievable."
The Quebec City-based company operated in relative obscurity until joining forces four years ago with a trio of Colorado sailing friends who wanted to market a comfy boat shoe.
The suburban Boulder buddies were inspired by a sandal Foam Creations introduced in 2001 and by July of the next year, they founded Crocs Inc. to distribute the Quebec products.
The partners suggested changes to the sandal and relaunched it as the Beach model in November 2002 at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show in Florida, where it was a hit. After promoting the product line of lightweight, odor-resistant, antimicrobial, non-marking and floatable shoes available in 17 bright colours for more than two years, Crocs acquired Foam Creations in 2004.
An initial public offering debuted Feb. 8 on the Nasdaq at $21 U.S. and gained almost 36 per cent to reach $28.55 on its first trading day.
By raising $208 million in the 9.9-million share offering, the Crocs deal became the biggest footwear IPO in U.S. history.
"Ironically, they've been made in Quebec and shipped to the U.S. the past three years," said Shaun McMahon, head of Crocs sales in Canada. But they only hit the Quebec market last month. They've been available across the rest of the country since last summer.
"Canadians love them, they're eating them up," McMahon said. "Our target market is 4 to 104 years old."
Crocs are popular with everyone from surgeons to athletes and gardeners.
"They are selling like crazy and this isn't really the season," said Barbara Vininsky, whose Jack & Jill Shop in Snowdon is running out of the first stock of a couple hundred pairs, only a month after starting to sell them.
Even though her store sells clothing and accessories for children and the youth market, Vininsky also stocks Crocs in adult sizes because "moms are buying them for themselves and (for) their hubbies."
In December, the leading footwear trade publication, Footwear News, honoured Crocs with the 2005 Brand of the Year Award.
"We named Crocs because of the incredible success the line has had at retail," editor Michael Altmore said. "We have heard again and again from stores that Crocs were selling out this year.
"It's clear that the product really resonated with customers looking for something different," Altmore added. "This is a case of a new brand making an instant connection with the shopper."