Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX ) bit investors yesterday. My friend and Rule Breakers teammate Rick Munarriz was among those to feel the severe pinch of a 43% haircut.
Count me among those burned -- even if my only scars are virtual.
You see, in 2006, during the company's go-go years, I shorted Crocs in Motley Fool CAPS. Dumb. Then, in late 2007, after lifting it from my list of the worst stocks, I wrote that Crocs might be an underappreciated grower. Dumber.
Today, I fear the worst is still to come. No one is saying so, but now that this once-tropic stock is giving arctic guidance -- and inventory levels remain in the stratosphere -- I wonder whether we were crazy to believe that Crocs would successfully extend its brand.
Perhaps. Trouble is, we've few details on how the brand extensions are working. Take the YOU by Crocs women's line. Crafted to blend style with comfort, "YOU" was supposed to be a litmus test -- the lineup that proved that Crocs would be, like Deckers Outdoor (Nasdaq: DECK ) before it, more than a one-hit wonder.
I thought it would be. Casual fashion has always had a strong following thanks to Gap (NYSE: GPS ) , J. Crew (NYSE: JCG ) , American Eagle Outfitters (NYSE: AEO ) , and similar retailers.
But, these days, Y-O-U is M-I-A. No mention of it was made in February's fourth-quarter results. Nor in the Q3 report from October. Nor in the Q2 press release from July. (YOU by Crocs was announced last June.)
The last time Crocs executives talked about YOU was in December, when announcing its spring and summer 2008 collections. A business update wasn't provided at the time. Shocking.
What gives? A Crocs spokesperson responded to my requests for comment by pointing out that YOU is a young, niche brand that represents a small portion of the overall business. She also told me that retailers like the shoes.
Fair enough. But at least two digital stores are selling the YOU by Crocs fall line at a steep discount. For example, the "straight-up" model, which retails for $159, sells for $90 at Bur-Mar's shoes. Meanwhile, the "nightcap" model, which retails for $139, sells for just $54 at a women's shoe warehouse called Shoestring.
Yeah, I know, discounting is neither bad nor uncommon when it comes to moving out-of-season merchandise. But when massive price cuts meet gluttonous inventory, as is the case here, it's time to worry.
Sorry Crocs, I'm over you. YOU, too.
Pay attention to the runway. Related Foolishness is about to come on: