On earnings calls, executives chalk up the weakness to things beyond their control, like low consumer confidence, currency fluctuations and even the weather. Another problem: Amazon.com. Crocs happily sells in bulk to Amazon, which automatically discounts if a competitor posts a cheaper price. Amazon may be able to eat the cost, but it puts Crocs in a tough spot, since consumers now have little incentive to pay face value in its stores.
"If you've created a monster, you have to kill the monster. But if you kill the monster, the stock goes down," says Sam Poser, an analyst with Sterne Agee. "Management doesn't want to do anything to show that growth is slowing down."
Poser, who issued a very critical note on the company in August alleging a "leadership void," says the company had lost talented marketing staff, allowing the message to drift even as it continues to open new stores.
"They need to be pulling back, closing stores, figuring out the Amazon problem, controlling the brand," Poser says. "As long as they're allowing the distribution they have, it can't be good enough."
In essence, it's a case of expanding too fast in an endless quest for new growth to satisfy investors — which was part of the problem the first time around.
"If you have a brand that wasn't the luxury brand, that was the garden gnome of fashion, and you're just pushed to do more and more and more, it's really hard to manage," says marketing and branding expert Rachel Weingarten. It's a challenge that's also dogged UGG, which tried to branch out from its wildly popular suede boot, with limited success.
Going private — if indeed they're serious about the idea, and manage to find a buyer — could be a way to discipline Crocs' image, and focus on a few core products in a way that Wall Street would never allow.
"I think maybe a good way to do it would be like the Cabbage Patch dolls, to own the ugliness, to have limited editions," Weingarten says. "I think trying to be a high fashion brand was just never a great idea."