The retail industry is changing dramatically as a result of COVID-19 — and one of the biggest trends we’ve seen is the shift to ecommerce and away from brick-and-mortar. As a result, many retailers have closed their doors or stopped opening new locations. Levi Strauss & Co., however, is taking a different approach, moving forward with long-planned store openings around the world and seizing the opportunity to reach consumers in new, high-potential locations.
In Europe, we opened a Levi’s® store in Madrid along Calle Preciados that is designed to spotlight local creativity, customization and cultural life, as well as a Levi’s® store in Prague, which is our largest store in Central and Eastern Europe and the first and only store in the Czech Republic that offers our iconic Levi’s® Vintage Collection.
We’ve also opened four new Levi’s® stores in Canada, including our first owned-and-operated mainline store in the Vancouver area. We also converted two former franchise stores in Ontario to owned-and-operated locations, which allows us to bring the best of our brand and product to the store. And in the U.S., we’ve opened four mainline and one outlet store since the pandemic began.
Down in Brazil, two new mainline stores — Levi’s® Barigui and Levi’s® Midway Natal — are opening in the coming days. These openings follow our latest NextGen Levi’s® stores, which opened in Shanghai in August, in Manila earlier this month and in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto last week. In total, we’ve opened 128 new stores in 2020.
So why open new stores during a global pandemic? First, there are many markets, including the U.S., where we still have a lot of opportunity to grow. The Levi’s® brand continues to be strong, and we can meet untapped demand in many parts of the world. And second, we are expanding thoughtfully, with a smaller footprint, a more profitable store model and a fleet of digitally enabled stores in prime locations that continue to see strong consumer traffic.
This strategy has been serving us well as a business. As Amy Yang, Managing Director of Greater China, said at the Shanghai store opening, “Levi’s is focused on bringing a highly personalized shopping experience to the consumer, and this new, larger-format store embodies the brand’s bold stature and vision for China. This beacon store offers the most expansive product assortment and brings to life our brand story with a theater-like expression.”
Even as consumer trends and behaviors change with COVID-19, our new retail locations are key to how we are staying connected to fans and keeping our business and brand strong in the market. “As a brand, it’s critical that we open these stores for our consumers, especially where the places they’ve traditionally bought our products have been or may be closed,” noted Richard Hurren, VP Retail in Europe.
Opening stores during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. Some openings planned for earlier in the year were delayed because of COVID-19, though all are back on track to open before the end of the year. Teams have also had to learn how to open stores while social distancing, adopting new digital tools and solutions as they and their vendors work remotely, as well as working with full PPE and health and safety measures in place.
It’s worth the extra work, however. “As many retailers are closing their doors permanently, it’s really encouraging to see we are doing the exact opposite,” said Sarah Van Nuland, Retail Operations Manager, Canada.
The teams have more work ahead, as we still have more store openings planned for later this year, including another NextGen store in Indonesia.
“Our goal with expanding our owned-and-operated retail fleet is to show off our best-in-class brand expression while we test and learn, so we can provide consumers with a highly personalized shopping experience.” said Marc Rosen, EVP and President, Levi Strauss Americas.