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NRF Retail’s Big Show - Levi’s plotting its future with collaborations

For established retail brands like Levi’s the future very much involves undertaking a wide variety of collaborations with other relevant brands and technology providers.


NRF Retail’s Big Show - Levi’s plotting its future with collaborations

For established retail brands like Levi’s the future very much involves undertaking a wide variety of collaborations with other relevant brands and technology providers.

Speaking at Retail’s Big Show, organised by the NRF, in New York James Curleigh, president of brand at Levi’s, told a packed auditorium during the first day’s Keynote that the company needs to “have one foot in the past with its heritage and one foot forward in the future”.

This future thinking element is leading it to work with the likes of Google to develop products such as the Commuter X Jacquard jacket. This is a piece of wearable technology whereby swiping the sleeve links it up to the owner’s phone from where they can access voicemails and receive help with navigation among other things.

Such initiatives have materialised because Curleigh says the most important issue for Levi’s is to attract “new fans” to the brand and “we’re doing this through collaborations with other brands who are like-minded”. This is playing a part in what he calls leveraging the icons at Levi’s such as its 501 jeans, trucker jacket and t-shirts, and linking them with today’s hot artists and cool brands.

This has included collaborations with publications like Rolling Stone, musicians like Chance The Rapper, sports stars such as Michael Jordan and designers like Diane von Furstenberg. The company has also hooked up with start-ups like Redone who take vintage Levi’s and effectively repackage them as their own. Previously Levi’s would have sued them but today they have partnered up with them to work together.

Such moves are being undertaken in tandem with implementing the latest technology, which enables customers to more easily access Levi’s products. “In a world where there are tough decisions to be made, choosing a pair of jeans should not be one of them. It needs a level of sophistication in the supply chain so we’ve elements powered by partners with RFID, and artificial intelligence capabilities so we can deliver products in a sophisticated way,” explains Curleigh.

This will be very much leveraging the multichannel nature of the business, which involves many customer touch-points that Levi’s has built up over the years, including: 80,000 physical points of distribution through its wholesale partners; 3,000 of its own stores; and an online store that Curleigh says effectively provides unlimited access to its products around the globe.

Bricks and mortar still plays a crucial role for Levi’s and ensures it delivers the brand experience. This is underlined by it recently signing up to take a 25,000 square foot unit on Times Square in New York City that will open up later in the year.

These units are very much embracing a new style of retailing with Curleigh revealing that customisation and personalisation will play a part along with the introduction in-store of tailors shops.

This bringing together of cultural elements - through collaborations - along with operational capabilities across multichannels is ensuring it delivers on the key criteria. “Been culturally engaged is needed if you want to be a leader. For some brands though they have been A in culture and F in business. For Levi’s there is top line revenue growth and bottom liner profitability. We are a lifestyle leader,” says Curleigh.

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