Levi Strauss & Co. is definitely having a moment. Be it the brand’s well-received return to public markets, or its consistent appeal among consumers, Levi’s hasn’t been short on successes.
And when it comes to sales, the brand is outperforming its competitors, too.
According to data from YouGov Plan and Track, Levi’s has led Wrangler and Lee on the site’s metric for potential sales for at least the past two years. When asked whether they’d be willing to consider Levi’s when shopping for clothing, shoes, accessories or luggage, one-third (32 percent) of U.S. consumers age 18 or older said they would. That’s 10 percent more affirmative responses than Wrangler, at 22 percent, and more still than Lee, at 17 percent.
Despite the brand’s status as the premier heritage denim brand, Levi’s is fighting to maintain relevance on all fronts. The brand has redefined its aesthetic through a diverse roster of collaborations, including Supreme, Vetements and even Peanuts. Seeking to appeal to a younger demographic with a fondness for customization, Levi’s will launch a program this fall that allows consumers to design their own denim online. The brand even partnered with Gen Z marketers to launch a revamped retail store, complete with digital features and Instagram-able spaces to entice the ever-connected set.
Still, Levi’s most loyal demographic remains consumers aged 50 and up. According to YouGov’s data, which the organization began capturing in January 2017, 33 percent of those consumers report that they would consider purchasing from the brand. Shoppers age 35 to 49 sit a bit lower at 32 percent. Twenty-six percent of Gen Z and millennials, age 18 to 34, reported interest in purchasing from Levi’s.
Apparel production has become notorious for its taxing effects on the environment, and denim companies know that in order to entice younger consumers, sustainability has to be part of the equation. Levi’s and its rivals are attempting to address the concerns of the conscious generation through various ecologically-centered initiatives. Last year, Levi’s replaced its manual denim finishing techniques (which rely heavily on harmful chemical compounds) with a digital process that uses lasers instead. Wrangler will debut its Indigood line this fall, which aims to reduce water consumption by 95 percent through a proprietary foam-dyeing technique.
Those efforts might prove pivotal. Sixty-seven percent of consumers age 18 to 34 report say they believe sustainable retail practices can positively impact the environment. The report shows a slightly shrewder response from Gen X consumers (age 35 and above), with 64 percent reporting their belief that sustainable practices can make a difference. In a complex and crowded retail landscape, denim brands must continually innovate not just in the realms of design and marketing, but environmental impact as well.
On the financial side, Levi’s made its debut on the New York Stock Exchange last week following a 34-year hiatus, and the response was staggering for a non-technology IPO. The near 200-year-old brand saw its share price jump 32 percent on opening day, closing out at $22.41. At publication time, the stock was trading at $22.55.
The brand’s triumphant re-entry coincides with VF Corporation’s decision to spin off its own denim business, which includes Lee and Wrangler, into Kontoor Brands, Inc. The organization aims to be fully independent and publicly traded before July of this year.