Most people know the Crocs footwear brand from its colorful spring and summer line of clog sandals. But the brand is much more than that. In fact, the company boasts 300 styles, of which 250 are non-clog types, including a very stylish winter lineup.
Crocs was founded in the U.S. in 2002 and has had a presence in the Japanese market since 2005. Currently, Crocs Japan has 41 outlets across the nation.
Heading the Japan operations is Motofumi “Mike” Onishi, Vice President and General Manager, Japan for Crocs Japan GK. Born in Kobe, Onishi majored in economics at Sophia University. After graduation, he worked at Itochu, Dell, Amazon.com and Trend Micro before joining Crocs in April 2010.
Japan Today catches up with Onishi at the Crocs store in Aoyama to hear more.
What sort of a year was 2012?
It was a pretty good year. We saw good growth.
How would you describe the image of Crocs in Japan?
We categorize ourselves as a casual lifestyle footwear brand. But people do still have a strong image of just clog sandals. That is changing. We provide 300 styles and 250 of those are non-clog types. Our mission statement is to bring comfort, fun, color and innovation to the world’s feet.
How do you market the brand in Japan?
We advertise in print media and do a lot of digital marketing through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. We also organize events and sponsor a J2 League soccer team (Kyoto Sanga) and a women’s volleyball team from Sendai.
In terms of advertising, we use a global campaign to strengthen our image, but we make slight changes for Japan. For example, the tagline on posters is different for Japan. Globally, the poster for autumn styles said: “Go to town.” In Japanese, it says “Comfort style of autumn.”
How big a market is Japan for the company?
Japan is the No. 2 market outside the U.S., which accounts for 35% of global sales. Japan has 15%.
Is Japan a style follower or trend setter?
From a design standpoint, initially Japan chose its lineup from Italy and the U.S., but now Japan is more responsible for sending out the latest trends, inspiring many other shoe designs. We try to be on the front end of trends.
Where are the shoes manufactured?
Mainly in China, and some in Vietnam.
Do Japanese consumer preferences differ from other countries?
Yes, mainly in colors. Navy, black and dark brown have always been best-selling colors. But Japanese people, especially children and young people, are attracted by red, pink and yellow colors. So we always have those colors. Adults still make up the bulk of our customers but in 2013, we will expand our children’s lineup.
Tell us about your distribution system.
We have 41 stores—36 directly operated and five outlet stores in malls. Most of our stores are in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama. We have a couple of stores in Nagoya, some in the Osaka-Kobe area, one in Kyushu, one in Hokkaido.
What are your expansion plans?
We opened 16 stores in 2012. We would like to rely on wholesalers to open in suburban areas in 2013. Department stores will be one of our key focus areas for this year. Currently, we are in 10 out of 29 Marui stores.
How often do you visit the stores?
Fairly regularly. I may spend half a day visiting stores when I am in Japan. I travel abroad once a month for global or regional meetings.
How do you get customer feedback?
One way is our customer call center. Another way is online. In November, we launched a website where customers can log in and leave comments about what they are satisfied or not satisfied with.
What areas of the business are you hands-on?
I am hands-on with sales, marketing and on the operations side.
So how many pairs of Crocs do you have?
At home, I have more than 50 pairs. My car trunk is always loaded with shoes. I like to try new styles. My family has always loved Crocs even before I joined the company. I was always a good customer.
How do you like to relax?
I used to play American football when I was in college, but now I just enjoy watching it. I like to drive and listen to music.