Peers call Levi’s CEO a retail visionary
When Chip Bergh joined Levi Strauss & Co. as its CEO in 2011, the jeans maker was far removed from its glory days as a new generation of consumers saw the brand as old and dusty rather than iconic. Coming off its third consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth, the privately-held company is in a much different position today. Levi’s turnaround has earned Mr. Bergh the respect of his peers including his selection as the next recipient of the “Visionary Award” from the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Mr. Bergh, according to NRF, was chosen for the honor because of “the momentous turnaround” that has taken place under his leadership. He is credited with “strategically seizing opportunities for growth, pushing the envelope on sustainability and championing innovation.” Mr. Bergh will be honored at the NRF Foundation Gala in New York in January.
As he told Quartz earlier this year, Mr. Bergh joined a company that had seen its annual sales decline $3 billion between 1996 and 2001 followed by a decade that was not kind to the brand as consumers chose upmarket labels such as Seven for Mankind rather than wearing Levi’s.
When he arrived at Levi Strauss, Mr. Bergh focused on identifying what parts of the business worked and which ones did not. He discovered that Levi’s and Dockers pants for men were the core of the company’s sales and efforts were made to shore up each.
He then went about identifying other parts of the business that were underdeveloped such as tops and women’s clothing. In 2015, Levi Strauss relaunched its women’s line including the use of more stretch fabric to help it compete with the growth of athleisure fashion.
The company, which is already known for its leadership role when it comes to sustainability issues, received attention earlier this month when it announced the creation of a $1 million fund to promote organizations dedicated to ending gun violence in America.
In an article on the Fortune site earlier this month, Mr. Bergh wrote that Levi Strauss has a history of taking stands including integrating factories in the American South before the passage of Civil Rights legislation. It also offered benefits to same-sex partners in the nineties, well before most other corporations.
While each one of these stands may have been controversial at the time, history proved the company right in the long run,” wrote Mr. Bergh. “And I’m convinced that while some will disagree with our stand to end gun violence, history will prove this position right too.”
- NRF to Recognize Levi Strauss & Co. President and CEO Chip Bergh as the Visionary 2019 – National Retail Federation
- Levi Strauss & Co. Reports Second Quarter 2018 Financial Results and Raises Full-Year Guidance – Levi Strauss & Co.
- The simple mantra that helped Levi’s turn its business around – Quartz
- Levi Strauss & Co. to Eliminate Thousands of Chemical Formulations From Supply Chain as Part of Major Sustainability Breakthrough – Levi Strauss & Co.
- Levi Strauss CEO: Why Business Leaders Need to Take a Stand on Gun Violence – Fortune
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What qualities are common among retail visionaries in your mind? Who among the recent crop of retail leaders would you put in the category of a visionary?