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World Retail Congress: Established brands must stay relevant, says Levi's president

Long-established brands must innovate, move with the times and strive to turn “moments into momentum” if they are to compete with start-ups, executive vice president and president of Levi’s James Curleigh said today (September 9).

After opening his keynote at the World Retail Congress by singing Bob Dylan’s ‘The times they are a-changing’, Curleigh said the challenge for Levi’s is to become a 150-year-old start-up, explaining that start-ups are focused and energised with global, omnichannel ambitions.

To the beat of perpetual motion balls, Curleigh advised delegates to apply the three laws of motion to their business: an object at rest stays at rest unless you apply force, force equals mass times acceleration, and for every action there’s an equal action or reaction.

Looking at the history of Levi’s, he argued that the brand has “never not been relevant”, from the initial 501 jeans for gold miners to cowboys, Hollywood stars, the rock ‘n’ roll era and more recently Taylor Swift on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Levi’s has set itself a challenge to increase its share of consumers’ closets, which currently sits at an average of 6% for denim. Curleigh emphasised that Levi’s is now more than just denim - its offer includes belts, underwear and outerwear. He said: “Anything that touches a pair of jeans we believe should be part of our lifestyle offering.”

Levi’s calls its customers “fans”, said Curleigh. Its ambition is to become the most loved and most relevant lifestyle brand, and to do this it must be innovative, iconic and provide “lifestyle solutions for the modern day, urban fan”.

For example, its ‘commuter series’ meets the needs of the increasing number of customers using bikes, as product in this collection is water resistant and has a high rise back and reflective cuffs.

Referring to the 70s hairstyle the mullet, Curleigh said the motto “business at the front, party at the back” should be transferred to retailers as “simplicity at the front, sophistication at the back”.

He urged the audience to look at businesses such as Google, where the consumer experience is simple but behind it sits a complicated and effective algorithm.

Readers' comments (1)

  • They might even accelerate quicker by working with startups.

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