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Crocs make big strides

Customers try on the new Croc shoes on display in Harrison, Ohio. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Customers try on the new Croc shoes on display in Harrison, Ohio. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

COLUMBUS, Ohio — It was on a winter trip to Denver that Amanda Walker discovered the funky-looking footwear that would boost her body care business.

Her feet tired, she was persuaded by locals to try Crocs. She thought the clog-like, rubber-like shoes were hideous but quickly got hooked on their comfort.

And, she decided, she just had to carry them at her store, Heavenly Bath, Body & More.

The bulky clog with a strap along the heel and holes across the top and around the toes is winning consumers over with its versatility and comfort. Food service and factory workers, hair stylists and hospital personnel buy them for comfort. Boaters and swimmers buy them for function. And some just think they’re fun.

“It’s unbelievable how popular they are,” said Walker, who sells an average of 16 pairs of the colorful shoes each week at her store in suburban Cincinnati and said they account for more than half of her business.

“I’ve definitely lived off Crocs for a while,” she said. “You get a shipment in and ‘poof,’ they’re gone.”

Crocs, which got its name because the shoes are water-friendly and tough, now lends its cartoon crocodile logo to more than a dozen styles. There are flip flops, slides, a calf-high boot, a hiking shoe and a Mary Jane that’s set to hit stores this fall. They come in 20 colors — from chocolate and sea blue to lime and fuchsia — and prices range from about $30 to $60.

Tim Kaiser, store manager at the Tradehome Shoe Store in Bismarck, N.D., said he sells to many nurses who say Crocs are more comfortable than $100 walking shoes and easy to sanitize.

The shoes are popular with campers because they’re easy to slip on and off, said Dustin Sabo, a manager at Sabo’s Camping in Columbus. Crocs are “flying off the shelves” there, he said.

At Gem Beach Marina along Lake Erie in Port Clinton, co-owner Megan Lovitt said Crocs are a good seller for the store that doesn’t focus on clothing or shoes. She sold about 150 pairs during last year’s three-month boating season and expects to sell about 235 pairs this season.

Crocs Inc., based in Niwot, Colo., reported $24,000 in revenues and sold 1,500 pairs of clogs in 2002, its first year. Last year, the company sold 6 million pairs of shoes and total revenues, including shoes, accessories and clothing, hit $108.6 million, an amount that spokesman Michael Fox said came almost entirely from shoes.

In May, Crocs said it expected sales for 2006 to reach $200 million to $205 million.

Crocs went public on the Nasdaq Stock Market in February at $21 per share; the stock rose 1.8 percent June 28 to close at $23.69.