Are Search, Web Traffic, Indicators Of Offline Value?
I was out of the country when Heelys hit the scene, so learning about them later, as a novelty shoe line that reminded me of the KangaRoos I wore when I was five, was more of a mental pop culture note than a personal world-changing one. Had I been ten when they became popular, they likely would have shared Reebok Pump status in my personal must-have shoe history.
Then again, I also hadn’t noticed the rise of Uggs and Crocs, either; the thigh-high black boots traversing Japan’s rail system I found a dozen levels more interesting, but for entirely separate reasons.
I was (and am), however, a big Skecher fan, and a pair of white Sketcher tennis shoes carried me the entire miserable, breathless, cold trek to the top of Mount Fuji, where, if you like capitalist monks, taking short naps in public mountain bathroom floors, weird mountain-top post offices, $5 thimbles full of hot tea, and expanses of jagged, black, ugly rock, it’s worth it.
In Kentucky, mountains have trees and grass and neat geological visuals, and they go up nice and gradual like, so I think I’ll keep’em. Four years later, I still have those Skechers, and they still have Fuji-dust on them.
So it’s interesting that Skechers made a public bid for Heely’s yesterday, offering them just shy of $143 million. The corporate leadership pulled a Microsoft move, making first a private offer in May, which didn’t garner "a positive response" from Heelys.
It could be that Heelys wasn’t impressed by an offer right at half the company’s 52-week high. The offer was, at least, a buck fifty higher than the year’s lowest price, and shows Skechers has some confidence in a company with a profit loss of 103 percent in the second quarter. That same quarter brought back $18.2 million in sales, more than a few hairs shy of the $74 million in the second quarter of 2007.
One can’t blame the economy for everything; it’s entirely likely Heelys is on the outs in terms of popularity. That also makes them a presumably cheaper acquisition target, so long as they aren’t too proud about things. (Heelys, just to sprinkle salt on a wound, isn’t Yahoo.) One presumes Skechers has a contingency/revival plan in place, perhaps mirroring or besting Heelys’ own diversification ambitions.
Bill Tancer at Hitwise seems also a bit nonplussed at Heelys’ self-confidence, noticing first the lack of local mallrats bumping into more commerce-minded and old-school pedestrians. Not willing to call "fad" just yet, he turned to search data to see if Heelys-related search volume charted similarly to its stock price.
The answer to that is yes, nearly a mirror image.
He writes in conclusion, "it strikes me that companies in the process of acquiring retail brands might want to consider the power of search term volume as a proxy for a retail brand’s equity. Also of note, while its [sic] not always the case, here stock price and weekly search term volume appear to correlate very nicely."
This seems like a nice angle to promote the necessity of his metrics firm, but it is also an interesting idea. More data might be needed though. Crocs’ decline on the stock market over the past year is far steeper than Heelys’, plummeting from a peak of around $75 to its current price of $4.69.
While that’s a pretty nasty tumble, the search interest in Crocs outpaces both Heelys and Uggs by a fair amount, according to Google Trends. Uggs’ search volume resembles Mt. Fuji itself when in graph form, falling to match the same non-interest in Heelys. Crocs, though showing some decline, has remained steady over the past year, and has shown recently a slight revival of interest.
Would this mean that Crocs are a better acquisition target for Skechers than Heelys? One can only speculate.
In case searchers keying in "crocs" might be looking for crocodiles instead, Compete.com’s comparison of traffic to each shoemaker’s website mirrors the Google Trends return, only with Uggs making a slight comeback to the tune of 92 percent growth in the past month. Crocs.com is a steady climber, mostly level but up 0.5 percent. Heelys’ line is flat and low like the Mississippi River flood plains, except for that nasty 66% drop in traffic over the year.
With these extra stats—these interest indicators—in mind, it does make you wonder what Skechers is thinking making a bid for Heelys. More so, though, it makes you wonder what Heelys was thinking when they turned them down.