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Levi Strauss CEO Talks IPO: 'This Brand Stands For Everything Good About America'

Levi Strauss CEO Talks IPO: 'This Brand Stands For Everything Good About America'

Shares of Levi Strauss (NYSE: LEVI) gained more than 30 percent following its initial public offering, and the company isn't merely "riding the denim wave," the company's CEO said Thursday. 

What Happened

Jeans maker Levi Strauss isn't a passenger in the jeans category, but rather is "creating the denim wave" and "driving the category," CEO Charles Bergh said as a guest on CNBC's "Squawk Alley" Thursday. The company is not only the global market leader in denim, but has successfully expanded to new categories, he said. 

Levi finished 2018 with a 14-percent growth rate, with gains seen in every category, every geographic region and every channel, the CEO said. The company remains confident it can sustain growth — although perhaps not at a double-digit rate — indefinitely, he said. 

Importance Of Branding

The key to success is to operate a brand that creates a strong emotional attachment with consumers, Bergh said. The company was successful in recreating "that love for Levi's," but perhaps more importantly is to be able to sell to customers through the methods they prefer, he said. 

To that end, Levi's set out on a mission seven years ago to become a world-class omnichannel retailer, Bergh said, adding that the company continues to invest in "knitting that seamless consumer experience together."

The company isn't seeing any international backlash to being an American brand, he said. 

"This brand stands for everything good about America," the CEO said. "Freedom, democracy, allowing people to express themselves. Authentic self-expression is what the Levi's brand is all about."

Track Record In Innovation

The company also recognized in 2014 that no matter how strong a brand, may be if it isn't the right material, a sale can't happen, Bergh said.

Levi's identified the growth in athleisurewear in the early 2010s as women shifted away from denim toward "soft, stretchy, comfortable material," he said. 

The apparel company's response was to innovate with its own proprietary "soft, stretch, comfortable denim," Bergh said. The line of jeans has now grown 14 consecutive quarters since being launched in 2015, with a double-digit rate in the past eight quarters.

Plans For The Proceeds

Levi's raised $623 million as part of its IPO, and the cash will be allocated toward continued investments in brick-and-mortar stores and the e-commerce business, the CEO said. Other investments the company will undertake include a continuation of tagging all items in store with RFID to give "instant clear visibility towards our inventory," he said. 

Levi's shares were up 32.5 percent at $22.52 at the close Thursday.

Related Links:

The Levi Strauss IPO: What You Need To Know

IPO Outlook For The Week: Levi's, Fintech, Business Solutions


Related Articles (LEVI)

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Posted-In: Apparel Charles Bergh CNBC Squawk AlleyNews IPOs Top Stories Media Best of Benzinga

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