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Interesting story in the Wall Street Journal (referred to in FaceTime this morning) about how the pandemic has prompted Levi Strauss to accelerate it efforts to take stronger control of its consumer business, reducing reliance on other retailers and selling more directly to shoppers.

An excerpt:

"The company is focused on boosting digital sales while using its growing network of Levi’s-branded physical stores - currently about 200 in the U.S. - to enhance the push. It has increased shipping of online orders through its own stores rather than big distribution centers, as a way of getting clothes to customers faster, and it is offering curbside pickup as well as in-store pickup. It also is relying more on data analysis to help it understand customers better, and using that information to tweak its product line."

CFO Harmit Singh says that Levi is "shipping from the store to the customer’s home—30% of all our e-commerce business in the U.S. in May shipped from the store [rather than distribution centers]. That’s something we hadn’t done before. We are offering curbside pickup now in the U.S., from about 80% of our stores. We have accelerated buying online and picking up in stores, and we’ve got that rolled out in about 40 of our stores in the U.S. We also do contactless payments and same-day delivery, with Uber in the U.S. We’ve also launched a new virtual concierge program, which offers consumers the chance to have a one-on-one interaction with a store associate."

Singh adds, " I do believe the digitization of the consumer experience will stick. However, I also think there is a reason for brands like ours to have bricks-and-mortar stores. Those stores are still a critical piece of the shopping experience. Even as consumers do more purchasing online, they still want the ability to interact face-to-face with a stylist, to see and try on clothing, or even to be first in line to pick up a piece from a new collaboration [with an artist or another brand] the day it hits."

You can read the story here.

KC's View:

For every brand - retail or manufacturer - it makes sense to have the strongest possible connection to the shopper, and the degree to which consumers have changed their behavior during the past five months certainly gives smart companies the opportunity to move into any sort of informational void that may exist.  If that means changing certain fundamentals about how business always has been conducted … well, change is the currency of the moment.

Levi has its own strange problem - for some reason, people working at home during the pandemic are finding jeans not to be their garment of choice.  Not comfortable enough, I gather … though when I started working at home 20 years ago, one of the attractions was being able to wear jeans.