Levi Strauss CEO Gass was speaking to an audience at the NRF 2024 Retail Big Show held in New York earlier this month.

While her 13 month transition from CEO of Kohl’s to Levi Strauss has been “unconventional” she says it has been seamless.

Gass has also held roles with Starbucks and Procter & Gamble.

“Being here at this moment is the culmination of everything I’ve done,” she said.
Speaking to NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, Gass said she has spent a full year getting to know the business, the culture and the team, which has, allowed her to be an “insider” even before the transition.

“This has been a fantastic gift and privilege to have a year to really dig in, right?” she said.

Gass added that initially she didn’t fully appreciate Levi Strauss’ international presence. It is currently shoppable in 110 countries across 3,000 stores.

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While she and Bergh made several trips to visit the international businesses, Gass pointed out they found “a plethora of opportunity” in its Asia markets including Shanghai, Tokyo, India, the Philippines and Thailand.

“There’s also strong growth in Mexico and Latin America, as well as possibilities in more mature markets like Europe and the United States. And then there’s ecommerce.”

During the talk, Gass laid out five key learnings: the importance of the power of brand; being obsessive about the consumer; the importance and power of innovation; the fact that everyone today “needs to think like an omnichannel retailer”; and purpose and values.

She sees “nothing but possibility” in the days ahead. “It’s Levi’s. It’s the 501. That’s not going to change. It’s a beloved, iconic brand around the world. What an amazing opportunity to come here with all of this brand strength. But yes, we have to continue to invest.” One of the things Bergh and the team did brilliantly over the past 12 years, she said, “was really putting Levi’s back in the centre of culture.

“I’m super proud and excited of the work the team is doing,” she said. “I’ve already seen the line through 2025, and I will just say, just wait. There’s some really great stuff coming.”

Over the last year, Levi Strauss has struggled with weak sales, excessive promotions and falling demand in its US wholesale channel and in October, lowered its fiscal 2023 guidance.

The company had already lowered its guidance in July, citing tightening consumer budgets in the US.