Interview: Sumit Dhingra, VP and GM, India and Southeast Asia, Crocs

By: |
July 02, 2021 6:42 AM

‘The whole world is moving towards casualisation’

As of now, about 50% of our business comes from the top eight cities in India, says DhingraAs of now, about 50% of our business comes from the top eight cities in India, says Dhingra

As the demand for casual footwear surged during the pandemic, Crocs registered a growth of 12.6% y-o-y globally, and clocked in a revenue of $1.4 bn in 2020. Sumit Dhingra speaks to Venkata Susmita Biswas about expanding the company’s retail footprint in India with a special focus on non-metros, and the role digital will play in driving sales.

Crocs earned its highest quarterly revenue of $460 million globally in Jan-March 2021 and saw record sales in 2020. Is the India story similar?

We have navigated the pandemic, which has lasted longer than we expected, very well. Last year was our best year ever. The whole world is moving towards ‘casualisation’, and that trend is here to stay. Pairing Crocs with an athleisure ensemble looks great. One of the reasons we are seeing great traction is that we entered the crisis in a position of strength. We target Gen Z and women explorer cohorts. We had initiatives in place to reach out to them using the digital medium.

Our collaborations with various personalities and brands have worked well for us. Bringing Priyanka Chopra Jonas as our global brand ambassador has helped our business in India. We have had successful collaborations with Post Malone, Justin Bieber, KFC, etc. These partnerships have expanded the possibilities in which clogs could be imagined for consumers.

Our shoes are versatile and our products appeal to people of all age groups; this makes Crocs a democratic brand. Innovation drives our brand and we have been introducing several models like the LiteRide and Reviva that go beyond the classic clogs.

You launched a few new stores in early 2021. What kind of markets are you considering for further retail expansion?

We started the year with 150 stores; now, in mid-2021, we have 173 stores. This is up from 100 in 2018. We are very well poised to take this network to 220 this year. The bulk of the new stores will be in the non-metros. As of now, about 50% of our business comes from the top eight cities in India. Only one-third of our stores are in these eight cities.

Since the pandemic, we have observed that people have preferred to shop on high streets way more than malls. Therefore, we are looking at an expansion strategy where we look at tier II and III markets, where there are not too many malls, more favourably. Last year, we saw that demand in these markets was better than in the bigger cities.

Further, we are making offline stores more engaging for our consumers through Jibbitz. These are charms that can be added to Crocs to personalise them. Personalisation is a mega trend among Gen Z consumers. The Jibbitz bar piques people’s curiosity and helps increase footfall.

Early on in the pandemic, Crocs India held multiple live shopping events. Is this format here to stay?

Our digital initiatives helped us reach consumers effectively. While people can always access our products online, they cannot experience the product the same way. That is why we decided to go live from our store. During the live, the product’s features could be shared in an interactive manner online. We were surprised by the response, and believe that this channel is here to stay and worth pursuing. Only time will tell how big it will become.

We also do virtual store visits over video conferencing. We send our catalogue to consumers over digital platforms, and once the consumer chooses the product, it is shipped to them. Consumer habits have changed and that is being reflected in our digital growth. In 2020, our e-commerce business accelerated and saw 60% growth over 2019.

Analysts were expecting the footwear market to return to normalcy by mid-2021. What is the year looking like for you at Crocs?

This quarter has been tough for several brands because of the restrictions on both online and offline sales. In the long run, demand will return just the way it did last year. Since October 2020, we have been seeing positive counts in our stores. In 2021, we will be growing more than 2019, despite the lockdowns in the April-June quarter. We are expecting close to 25% growth this year, over 2019.

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