From a flood of store closures, to an eruption of apparel retail bankruptcies, the retail industry has had a rough time as of late. However, one iconic denim brand has outpaced the rest thanks in part to its leader with a laser-sharp focus on innovation and products, Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) president and CEO Chip Bergh.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) announced Tuesday that it will recognize Bergh as “The Visionary” at the fifth annual NRF Foundation Gala in New York City on Jan. 13, 2019. The Visionary award is presented each year to a retail executive with a proven track record of orchestrating change in the industry.
Former recipients of The Visionary award include Nike chairman, president and CEO Mark Parker and Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon.
Earlier this year, NRF asked prominent retail executives to identify an individual who has changed and continues to transform the retail landscape in a positive way. Bergh, who joined LS&Co. in 2011, was selected due to the turnaround the company has experienced under his leadership and for its adoption of sustainable innovation.
While sales for the denim industry as a whole are rebounding, Levi’s, in particular, is having a monumental year. The company has grown double digits three straight quarters, and its direct-to-consumer business has grown double digit for 12 quarters in a row.
The company also announced the launch of Project F.L.X., a new operating model that adds new laser technology to the design and development of denim finishing. The technology reduces lead times from more than six months down to just weeks or days, and slashes the number of chemical formulations used in the brand’s finishing process.
“Chip is one of those exceptional leaders who brings everything together seamlessly and succeeds by growing his business with the latest technologies,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay in a release. “Throughout, Chip has stayed true to the culture, keeping a firm grip on the pulse of his customers but constantly seeking out new and better ways to meet the demands of next generation Levi loyalists, and pioneering with a sense of servant leadership that inspires his employees, his customers and other business leaders.”
Bergh will also be a keynote speaker at the NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show in January in New York City.
“Returning an iconic American company back to growth and the center of culture is only possible when you have a team with shared vision and values,” Bergh said. “We believe that the role business plays in the world today is far greater than just delivering a profit—it’s about taking responsibility for tackling the important societal issues of our time and having the courage to take a stand. I’m incredibly proud of the work this team has done to set a higher bar for others to follow.”