That's right, Fool; there's no bait-and-switch to that headline. I have shorted Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX ) in Motley Fool CAPS, our new beta investment service that ranks players by their ability to predict the price movements of the stocks they follow, compared to the performance of the S&P 500.
So far, the pick hasn't worked too well for me. I'm down nearly seven points, thanks to a 9% gain in the shares versus a 2% gain in the S&P since my Aug. 28 selection. That's doubtlessly made others giddy; 78 players have rated Crocs, and more than half -- 53, to be precise -- say that the iconic maker of rubber clogs will outperform the S&P.
Sand in the gears of a sandal-making business
Why am I so glum? Allow me to share my "pitch," a short thesis on my bearish view that's available for all other CAPS players to see:
Insiders are now free of selling restrictions. 1.7 million shares have been dumped thus far, but 27 million are eligible for sale. With too many copycats, a fickle American public, and winter around the corner, something tells me there's not likely to be much demand for open-toed rubber sandals....
And I'm not the only snarling bear. Foolish friend Nate Parmelee, himself an all-star CAPS player, has doubts as well:
... This is worse than a fad. The secondary is all about insiders selling, the company has yet to show any kind of free cash flow generation, there is no moat around this business, and the company has all kinds of bizarre arrangements with executives and board members for distribution of its products. Run away, this is not worth $1 billion.
Get over the Croc tears
Bullish investors see no reason for Nate's or my skepticism. Consider this pitch from CAPS player BrewDood, who received five recommendations for the following insights:
Crocs are emerging as the UGGs of summer. Ugly, but catching on with many. They began selling these casual closed resin shoes in 2002. In 2004, they sold 649,000 units, and in 2005 they sold 6.0 million. They have warehouses in the U.S. and in the Netherlands, and manufacture in Mexico. Gross [margin] is at 56% and net [margin] is above 15%. If UGGs can have staying power, then so can these. Anyone remember Birkenstocks in the 70s before they went mainstream? Me too. This so-far-one-hit-wonder is in the early stages of what may end up being explosive growth, unless fashion tastes change. It's worth a risk at this point, despite a P/E of 38 as this is written. Right on...
Before the Croc snaps
I see several problems with this argument, particularly given that market-beating Motley Fool Hidden Gems selection Deckers Outdoor (Nasdaq: DECK ) isn't a one-hit wonder. It offers footwear for all four seasons, including UGG boots for fall and winter and Teva sandals for spring and summer.
Crocs, on the other hand, has chosen to diversify with -- wait for it -- tchotchkes and branded apparel. Well, that and a new line of therapeutic clogs called CrocsRx. I'll admit that idea sounds appealing at first. But I find no information to prove that these models are materially different than what's available on store shelves. Bad sign, Fool.
Finally, it's worth remembering that fashion is always fickle, and Crocs are as despised by fashionistas as they are loved by casual wearers like me. My wife -- a fashionista who loves casual clothes -- predicts that it will be a year before the tide turns and Crocs move from "in" to "out." After nearly nine years of marriage, I've learned not to argue with her, especially when it comes to matters of style. Thus, I'm sticking with my short call.
Earn your Fool cap!
So, who's right when it comes to Crocs? Me? You? Get in the game now and tell us what you think. Or, if Crocs doesn't strike your fancy, remember that more than 1,200 stocks have yet to earn a star rating in CAPS, including software and services provider Aspen Technology (Nasdaq: AZPN ) , apparel retailer Buckle (NYSE: BKE ) , fitness-equipment maker Nautilus (NYSE: NLS ) , and homebuilder Champion Enterprises (NYSE: CHB ) . Click here to rate any of them now. Your Fool cap is waiting.
Fool contributor Tim Beyers has 32 picks in his CAPS portfolio, including Gateway (NYSE: GTW ) , which he believes is a wonderful short candidate. Think he's wrong? Get in the game and add your own rating.
Tim didn't own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all of Tim's stock holdings by checking his Fool profile. Deckers Outdoor is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems recommendation. The Motley Fool's disclosure policy always beats the average.