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Death of crocs

Here's a shock. The Washington Post reports that ugly-shoe-maker Crocs is about to go out of business. Wow. That seemed like a business built on a sturdy foundation, one that was built to last. Much like Krispy Kreme, it wasn't tied to a trend at all, and stock touts were surely right to recommend buying in back in 2007. Sometimes the economy is so unpredictable. Who would have thought that demand for Crocs wouldn't continue to grow forever, like the value of our houses?

The company had expanded to meet demand, but financially pressed customers cut back. Last year the company lost $185.1 million, slashed roughly 2,000 jobs and scrambled to find money to pay down millions in debt. Now it's stuck with a surplus of shoes, and its auditors have wondered if it can stay afloat. It has until the end of September to pay off its debt.

"The company's toast," said Damon Vickers, who manages an investment fund at Nine Points Capital Partners in Seattle. "They're zombie-ish. They're dead and they don't know it."

I think that it is safe to assume that Crocs might have found itself in some trouble regardless of the recession. It always amazes me that companies like this get hyped in the financial press; it seems a bit irresponsible and cynical. The unspoken subtext seems to be this: Everyone knows that eventually the trends that such companies are built on will pass, but everyone also believes that the other investors are more naive than they are and have bought into the trend unthinkingly. Everyone then wants to exploit the other's presumed ignorance, assuming some other fool will be left holding the shares when the day of reckoning comes. And the press is there to cheer this game along, pointing to how much growth the company has seen during its peak trendiness, encouraging the extrapolation of such unsustainable figures into the future. I wonder if all the analysts who recommended Crocs a few years ago (or the ones, probably the same ones, who recommended Krispy Kreme in the late 1990s) feel any embarrassment at all.


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