Lululemon (LULU) or Levi's? The trend toward so-called "athleisure" wear is threatening an American tradition: jeans.
The Daily Ticker has reported that teens are favoring yoga pants over jeans by a big margin, but Levi's President & CEO Chip Bergh says the trend is also popular among women, in general, and that's hurting his company.
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"We're actually losing consumption to yoga pants," says Bergh. "What used to be a premium jeans occasion for women is now socially acceptable to be a yoga pants occasion, and shame on us as category leaders for letting that happen."
So the jeans maker is responding to the challenge.
It's "racing" to the market "super soft, super stretchy jeans" to meet that consumer demand, says Bergh. "It's our job to get them back."
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And it's Bergh's job to revive Levi's, which was founded in 1873 when Ulysses S. Grant was president and its primary product was a denim overall. By 1995 the company, which is privately held, but issues publicly-traded debt, had $7.1 billion in revenues. They've since fallen to around $4.6 billion, but that's still almost three times the revenues of Lululemon.
Bergh, who spent 28 years at Procter & Gamble (PG), says Levi’s "hottest items" in its men's business is a 511 jean with a "slimmer, tapered cut" and its "commuter" pants - designed with the urban cyclist in mind, which features water repellency, odor prevention and reflective tape for nighttime visibility.
"The key to all these products: innovation," says Bergh. To that end, Levi's has opened an innovation center in its hometown of San Francisco, which functions like a pilot plant to develop new products and improve on existing ones.
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Another big trend in apparel is wearable tech, clothes that incorporate technology to measure, say, one's heart rate or muscle output. "It's something we're looking at," says Bergh. It's "going to be a big deal in the athletic category; in jeans, over time, maybe."
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