Foam clog shoemaker and retailer Crocs (CROX -1.09%) just capped off an epic 2022. After years of double-digit growth and then an early pandemic boom in sales, Crocs said full-year 2022 sales increased 54% year over year to $3.55 billion, keeping it on track to reach its stated goal of $6 billion in annual sales by 2026.

After slumping through last summer, share prices of Crocs have more than doubled since. A bull market may be coming eventually for stocks overall, but one is already here for this top footwear brand. With Crocs' growth poised for a big slowdown this year as the global consumer continues to digest inflation and other economic uncertainties, some wonder if the bull market has already ended. Is it too late to buy this stock? 

Pretty darn good financials, with or without an acquisition

Crocs' epic 2022 revenue growth rate, including a 61% year-over-year jump in the fourth quarter (or 65% when excluding the persistent headwind from a strong U.S. dollar), was helped by the big acquisition of the Hey Dude brand in February 2022.

But even on its own, the Crocs brand did quite well last year. Total sales grew nearly 15% to $2.66 billion (or over 19% excluding negative currency exchange rates due to the U.S. dollar). Back in 2021 (before the tie-up with Hey Dude), management laid out its plan to reach $5 billion in annual sales by 2026, which would have represented average annual brand growth of 17% from that point forward. So far, so good. 

Adding Hey Dude into the mix brings another line of shoes to a mix that's winning big with consumers. On a stand-alone basis for the full calendar year 2022, the Hey Dude brand grew sales by 70% to $986 million, benefiting from the increased distribution and marketing efforts of its new parent company.

Full-year operating margin came in at 23.9% (or 27.7% on an adjusted basis), dragged down by inflationary pressures and sky-high air and freight delivery costs. Even so, Crocs still has one of the best profit profiles in the shoe market. Earnings per share (EPS) fell 24% in 2022, but it rose 31% on an adjusted basis when excluding a one-time tax benefit realized in 2021.

Is Crocs stock still a buy?

Crocs stock currently trades for just 10.5 times trailing 12-month adjusted EPS, or 10 times the high end of management's forecast for adjusted 2023 EPS. The company will be off to another hot start to kick off the year with an expected 27% to 30% year-over-year increase in revenue, including "double-digit growth" for Crocs boosted by the inclusion of Hey Dude. Note that the one-year anniversary of the Hey Dude takeover was in February, so half of Q1 2023 will still benefit from that extra Hey Dude revenue that didn't exist last year.

Things could get a bit dicier as the year progresses, though. Management is expecting pressure on its U.S. and European customers because of outsized inflation and economic worry. For the full-year period, the Crocs brand is expected to grow just 6% to 8% (again dragged down a few percentage points from the strong U.S. dollar), boosted by anticipated mid-20% growth at Hey Dude. When consolidated, revenue is forecast to increase 10% to 13% this year and should approach $5 billion.

For what it's worth, CFO Anne Mehlman said on the last earnings call that "our guidance contemplates some conservatism as we are cautious about the impact of macroeconomic events." Perhaps Crocs is tempering investor hopes so it can under-promise but over-deliver in what is sure to be a challenging 2023.

At any rate, I still like my position in Crocs stock. I don't love it as much as I did last summer when the market overall had tossed shares out like last night's trash (the valuation was truly depressed at that point, and was just begging to be bought). Crocs as a stand-alone business (without help from Hey Dude) looks like it could fall below the rate of growth needed to reach $5 billion in sales by 2026. However, the company is still forecasting growth, helped by new product launches like Crocs sandals and expansion in Asia.

I'm personally not adding to my position at this time, but Crocs still looks like a great company to stay invested in for the long-term.