This week Levi Strauss & Co. published its full-year 2017 financial results–the strongest for the brand in more than a decade. The release shows a particular increase of net revenue of 20% in the European market. Seth Ellison, EVP and president of Europe, explains what strategy has been working for Levi’s.
Seth, 2017 has been a successful year for Levi’s. Why is that so?
The last few years Levi’s has been a sleeping giant and now we have joined our forces to accelerate our approach, getting the right team together and getting the business to move again. We worked on a better connection of the products and have revalued our marketing activities. We have opened almost one retail store every week and kept on organizing elevated presentations at the POS. We expanded into different lifestyle categories. In short: we fought at all fronts. It was an interesting journey and we had great fun.
Your traditional batwing logo shirt is ubiquitous. Why?
Our aim was to create a stronger connection to the consumer. So we had to approach all three, those fans that are still with the brand, those who had been but left and those who never discovered Levi’s. We almost skipped one generation. So we went down to the bottom line and stuck to the relevant products, the jeans and the T-shirt. We want to be a democratic brand. Thus we focused on building bridges, also regarding the price point. The batwing shirt shows both, that we are proud of being a large brand but also that we are authentic and interesting.
What iconic item comes next?
At this moment the Olympics logo takes up space. But also our new print bar brings up new emblems as well as customized batwings. Our fans will create their own iconic motifs.
How does a brand like Levi’s keep up with the market changes without losing its heritage?
It is all about playing big as a leader but playing small as an authentic brand. It is a good mixture of honesty and being unpredictable. And we truly believe that our consumers are smart. So they have an appreciation for community and responsibility. We organized around 20 music festivals last year but also several events to help refugees at many places. We did numerous collaborations, such as with Justin Timberlake and Jordan by Nike which was sold out within a few hours.
Your direct-to-consumer business was as successful in 2017 as for several other brands. Why is that so?
It is all about experience and therefore we need to renew our focus on the consumer and start to control the relationships. Commoditization and convenience are increasing so that all sales channels will be more and more connected to each other. We as a brand are able to strive to that.
So what is going to happen in 2018?
Already now the momentum has continued. I can see the potential to increase categories like women’s. And also our geographic expansion will go on. We will develop divisions as for instance footwear and accessories. If you don’t continue to excite the customer you will lose them. So we keep our foot on the gas. We will not be slowing down.