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Big in Japan: Levi’s Denizen Finds Success

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While heritage and quality are intrinsically linked to denim in Japan, the latter is becoming increasingly important to young consumers.

Nearly one year ago, Levi’s debuted its value denim line, Denizen, in Japan—and soon after, a global pandemic hit. But despite the resulting economic crisis and widespread uncertainty, the jeans maker is reporting an overwhelmingly positive response to its value line, and is gearing up for an even bigger 2021.

“We are finding that despite the uncertainties, people still want freshness and excitement in the outfits they are purchasing,” said Pascal Senkoff, managing director North Asia at Levi Strauss & Co. The line’s $50 price point, he noted, is the sweet spot for a younger Japanese consumer who values both quality and affordability—and who is familiar with seeing high-quality Japanese denim priced upward of $300.

Levi’s first began selling the value brand at Target 10 years ago as a way to provide “style without compromise.” Levi’s has since become one of the most searched jeans brands on target.com, and consumers are reportedly receptive to all of its collections. When Levi’s introduced its Red Tab line at select Target locations in 2019, Denizen sales were unaffected, signaling that the Denizen buyer was unique from consumers of other Levi’s lines.

According to Senkoff, consumer behavior is similar in Japan. “What’s interesting is that even where you find both Denizen and Levi’s, we are seeing two distinct groups of consumers making the purchases,” he said. “This suggests that our strategy to diversify our portfolio in Japan to include Denizen is working, as we haven’t seen any sign of cannibalization of the Levi’s brand at all.”

While Denizen offers men’s, women’s and children’s styles, the brand debuted exclusively with men’s bottoms in Japan. Looking ahead, the brand plans to expand to tops and women’s apparel categories in this region—a strategy that may have come about as a result of an uptick in sales of Levi’s women’s lines that was reported during an earnings call in October.

The brand attributes Denizen’s Japanese success to its wholesale partnerships, noting that it strategically selected a number of customers such as Amazon Japan and value store Mac House to reach the right consumers and compete with Uniqlo, its biggest rival in the region. It also reported record success as it branched into the e-commerce space.

“In October, the number of jeans we sold to Amazon exceeded our expectations, and we are hopeful that this will only grow as more consumers go online,” Senkoff said.

Levi’s sees more untapped potential in the region. Next up, Levi’s plans to launch Denizen through home shopping in Korea and more than double the total number of stores that carry the brand to 400.

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