Blog: Leonie BarrieLevi's future looks frayed

Leonie Barrie | 3 March 2004

The latest signs of the unravelling of Levi Strauss & Co emerged earlier this week when the jeans maker revealed a 2003 loss of $349 million - the largest annual setback during its seven-year sales slide. CEO Phil Marineau has also conceded that more layoffs may be announced in the next couple of months – on top of last year's 2000 job losses when the company shuttered its last remaining US plants.

More unwelcome news could also be around the corner when management consulting firm Alvarez & Wilson completes the first phase of its corporate review. Appointed at the end of last year, the consultants have been asked to advise on “additional strategies and actions to reduce debt and costs, while building our brands and returning the company to profitable growth,” according to Marineau. 

Management missteps, tough US and European retail markets, and unrelenting price deflation have all contributed to its woes. The company also denies that selling a mix of styles and prices through different retail outlets has led to cannibalisation of the mainstream line, with its discount Signature brand, sold at Wal-Mart and Target, emerging as one of the few bright spots in the past year. Even so, the 151-year-old Levi Strauss has a lot of work to do if its promises of better times ahead are to ring true.


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