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Home > Business > Special

How Levi's plans to 'rivet' Indians

Nayantara Rai in New Delhi | February 23, 2006

Levi's, with its brand credentials snugly in place, has a clear-cut expansion plan for the Indian market.

"We're growing at a clipping pace," in the words of K Vekataramani, marketing director of Levi Strauss India Ltd, "and we would like to drive that growth even faster."

Having notched up an annual 35 per cent over the past three years, the company now plans a major retail expansion across all major cities in India.

If there's a loose end left unshorn, it's the company's response to the government's allowing 51 per cent FDI in single brand retail.

"We're still evaluating our strategy," is all Venkataramani will say on the issue. The rest of the plan, though, appears to fit well with its market strategy for the brand, which includes the deployment of the retail chain as a means to engage the young consumer.

As a specially focused part of this effort, the company tested a Levi's Rivet store in 2005, with a new partner, in Bangalore. This is Levi's icon store format of which there are only 11 in the world.

"Our heritage and future designs, along with technology like that of moving browsers, are under this one roof," says Venkataramani. Besides the regular Red Loops, Red Tabs and Levi's 501s, this special store carries an exclusive line - Levi's Vintage Clothing.

These denims are replicas of Levi's vintage designs straight from the archives. A pair from this collection can go up to Rs 10,000.

Rivet has been a success in India, and by plan, the retail sub-brand will arrest customer attention in Mumbai and Delhi in 2006.

Meanwhile, Levi's will also expand Levi's flagship chain of jeans outlets. At 3,500 sq ft, these new shops will be bigger than the current outlets, and "will showcase everything Levi Strauss has to offer" as Venkataramani says, including non-denim wear.

These large format stores will be opening shortly in all the six metros, with smaller stores to follow in cities such as Agra, Lucknow, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Pune. Currently, Levi's has about 500 outlets in India, including exclusive and multi-brand stores.

Levi Strauss has also experimented with an all-women's store at Bangalore's Eva Mall. Happy with this store's success, Levi's might take this format to other cities as well.

Venkataramani rubbishes all talk of Levi's losing appeal among young people; the stores' walk-in-profile of 18-25 year olds stands at 40-45 per cent, he says, and growing.

In fact, he attributes the recent surge in sales to the youth segment, which has responded well to Sykes, launched three years ago as a brand of cargoes, reversible shirts, track pants and the like.

The company is also proud of its sponsorship of original rock music in India, having associated with the Great Indian Rock show, apart from Freedom Jam in Bangalore.

"We at Levi's believe very strongly in originality," explains Venkatramani. While Wrangler boot cuts, Lee flares and other rival denims may have sprung into consumer mindspace in recent times, Levi's can count on originality as a brand value of riveting relevance.

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