Levi’s president Michelle Gass has said there is “nothing but opportunity” in Asia for the fashion giant as she outlined its international expansion plans at Retail’s Big Show in New York this weekend.
At the National Retail Federation (NRF) event, Gass said the brand is “only just getting started” in some of its markets and highlighted Asia as a key target when it comes to future growth.
“Chip [Bergh, CEO] and I made 15 trips around the world last year, three trips in particular to Asia. I couldn’t be more excited about Asia,” she said. “We visited parts of India, we went to Shanghai, Tokyo, the Philippines, Thailand; we went all over and we see nothing but opportunity.
“If you think about India, in particular, we know there are a lot of consumers [and] the brand is off the chart in terms of how it is scoring brand equity, it is a youthful market and that brand is further along in what we could call more ‘head-to-toe’ Levi’s dressing.
“As we look out today, we have 3,000 stores, 1,000 of those are ones we own and operate and the balance are franchise partners who do a great job on our behalf.
“India is a good example where we have a lot of franchise stores but we are just getting started in that market. That should be much bigger and it will be.”
She added that parts of Latin America, including Mexico, are also seeing “strong growth” for and despite Europe and the US being its “more mature markets”, opportunities remain in those regions.
“In Europe, it is the same Levi’s but an even more elevated and premium expression there,” she added.
“Here in the US, we have long-established, great wholesale partnerships and you’ll see Levi’s in all those places but we are building stores. We now have more than 70 mainline stores and we see an opportunity to grow that further, so growth is an opportunity all around.”
Gass highlighted that during Levi’s third quarter, its direct-to-consumer business was “thriving” with “very high growth” globally, including in the US.
“Consumers are looking for that full expression of the Levi’s brand,” she said. “Our wholesale business unfortunately has been a bit tougher this year, the majority in the US and to some extent in Europe, and there have been lots of reasons for that including some of our own.
“We have faced congestion in our distribution centres over this past year but we believe that is largely behind us now.”
Gass added that while she is “not the expert on the consumer”, customers are likely to gravitate towards brands they “know and trust” in both good times and bad.
“Who doesn’t know Levi’s? We are a trusted brand and that goes back to the power and importance of investing in brands.”
Gass is set to take over from chief executive Bergh on January 29, following the announcement of his retirement in December. This will complete Levi’s transition plan that was unveiled at the end of last year.