Levi’s CEO says our lockdown weight fluctuations are driving sales for the brand

Levi's jeans
Lockdown-induced weight fluctuations after more than a year of working from home have driven sales for Levi’s.

  • Levi’s CEO said in a recent interview that the company is seeing a “resurgence” in denim.
  • People whose weight has fluctuated during the lockdown are boosting sales by shopping for new sizes.
  • Jefferies analysts said weight changes and shopping for new sizes could benefit other retailers.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Lockdown-driven weight fluctuations among shoppers are helping to boost sales at Levi’s, according to its CEO.

In an interview with The Associated Press, CEO Chip Bergh said that the company is seeing a “resurgence in denim” as we emerge from a loungewear-heavy lockdown, boosted by people shopping for new sizes.

“The number of people who are in a new size is pretty staggering,” he said, adding: “More than 25% of consumers have a new size today.

“Some people gained weight during the pandemic, and many people lost weight. But both on the men’s side of the business and women’s side,” he said.

A recent Jefferies note to clients explored the idea that customers gaining or losing weight could benefit retailers.

Citing Google search data, Jefferies analysts said that there had been a “surging interest” in searches related to “COVID weight gain” as the pandemic has dragged on over the past year. A survey conducted by The Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association in February found that 42% of adults surveyed had put on an average of 29 pounds since the start of the pandemic, these analysts noted.

“Changing sizes = time for a wardrobe refresh,” the note said.

Pandemic-driven weight gain has been a big topic over the past year as consumers reported drinking more alcohol and eating more because of the stress of the time – all the while being unable to hit the gym to burn it off.

Because of this, clothing stores can expect to see an uptick in sales, Jefferies analysts said.

Read more: I was a 35-year-old global head of communications who landed in the hospital from extreme stress and burnout. It was the push I needed to finally leave agency life and put my wellness first.

Bergh said that while denim is making a comeback, casual styles continued to prevail.

“This new looser fit that we led early on in the pandemic is definitely taking hold,” he said.

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Levi’s sales are down as remote workers turn to loungewear over jeans

levi's
  • Levi’s revenue in the recent holiday quarter was down 12% year-over-year.
  • Sales beat expectations as losses slowed in the fourth quarter.
  • As many remote workers trade out their jeans for sweats, Levi’s is starting to sell loungewear.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Levi Strauss & Co reported its fourth-quarter earnings on Wednesday, revealing that revenue was down 12% in the holiday period – an improvement over the prior quarter.

Despite the double-digit revenue decline, the fourth quarter still generated positive cash flow, and president and CEO Chip Bergh highlighted that sales beat Wall Street expectations during an investor call Wednesday.

The holiday quarter was better than the third quarter, which saw a 27% decline in revenue, thanks in part to Black Friday. Bergh called it a “really strong year given the backdrop” of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more: Insiders who worked with Instagram mega influencer Danielle Bernstein say she rips off fashion designers and gets away with it

Still, even as losses grow smaller, the future of jeans, or “hard pants,” is unclear as people spend more time at home and loungewear becomes more acceptable. Experts have been predicting the end of jeans as go-to casual wear since the pandemic began, in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, NPR, and other outlets, noting that jean sales were already falling before the pandemic. 

Bergh and the company acknowledged that “changes look like they’re here to stay,” including “casualization,” or more loungewear. Notably, losses were greatest in Asia, at 14%, though the continent has seen the most success in batting COVID-19 and reopening. 

Levi’s calls itself the “global leader in denim by a mile” in an investor call, but that might not mean much if jeans are no longer at the top. Even the denim company itself seems to recognize and hedge for this possibility by developing other products. The Red Tab line of unisex sweat suits in muted colors aimed at Gen Z sold out in only a few weeks. 

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