Tried-and-true brands — comforting to a recession-worn public — were the most sought after by shoppers in the third quarter, including Levi Strauss, which shot up from last place a year ago to become a top-rated apparel player, according to the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.
Joining Levi’s as number one in the apparel category was Jones Apparel (in a tie) and, in other categories, Cadillac and Lexus (a tie), Anheuser-Busch and Heinz, among others in the 15-year-old index, a measure of brands bought most often by U.S. consumers.
“Levi’s has usually not done well in this index; it’s usually been at the very bottom of the apparel category,” said Claes Fornell, founder of the index and Donald C. Cook professor of business administration at the University of Michigan. “Consumers perceive the quality of Levi’s as being much better than last year.”
The response to Levi Strauss put it at 83 on the customer satisfaction meter, up 6.4 percent from 78 a year ago. That’s just below Levi’s all-time high of 84 in 1994 — and the first time the brand has held that much appeal for the 100,000 people polled annually about their buying habits in the 15 years since then. The satisfaction index is pegged to a baseline of 100.
The classic denim brand has been lifted, in part, by its optimistic, youthful, pioneering “Go Forth” marketing message, said spokeswoman Erica Archambault. “It is a reminder that Levi’s are jeans of people who work hard, are self-reliant and independent.”
Also clicking with shoppers, Archambault said, are “innovative” finishes, such as Levi’s “rips and repairs, destructed look.”
Sales of Levi’s men’s and women’s products were up during the third quarter, even as overall revenue at Levi Strauss & Co. fell 6.3 percent to $1.04 billion in the three months ended Aug. 30, from $1.11 billion. The Levi’s brand accounted for 77 percent of the company’s net sales, or $2.18 billion, in the most recently completed nine months.
Like Levi Strauss, Liz Claiborne received its best customer reviews since 1994, advancing 3.8 percent to score an 82 (versus 84 in the first-ever index). Affordable offerings in Liz Claiborne’s Kate Spade and Juicy Couture collections, as well as the addition of Isaac Mizrahi to design Liz Claiborne New York, led consumers to “see more value” in the company’s apparel, Fornell said.
The view of affordability, from Claiborne’s Times Square headquarters Monday, was a different one. “For both brands, the more exclusive, higher-priced product caught consumers’ attention — Bird for Juicy Couture and Kate Spade apparel,” said Dana Stambaugh, vice president of corporate communications. “It is less so affordability and more the merchandise and brand promise.”
Despite a less-than-stellar performance in its debut by the Liz Claiborne New York collection, Stambaugh said: “The Isaac Mizrahi name and design enhanced the cachet of the brand,” and it has “opened doors for future distribution [in December] via QVC.”
Liz Claiborne’s strongest customer ratings since the early Nineties were not reflected in the firm’s third-quarter results. The company’s sales for the three months ended Oct. 3 fell 24.2 percent to $769.6 million from $1.01 billion, resulting in a net loss of $90 million.
A customer satisfaction score of 83 kept Jones Apparel atop the apparel group, although it eased 1.2 percent from an 84 in 2008. Rounding out the index’s apparel sector were: Liz Claiborne; Hanesbrands; VF Corp., parent of brands such as John Varvatos, Lee, Wrangler, Nautica and Majestic, and “All Others,” comprising an array of smaller companies. This roster has remained consistent for the past few years.
In all, 200 names, in 44 sectors of the U.S. economy, were rated by a representative group of about 100,000 consumers, based on their purchases of nondurables in the previous three months, and durable goods in the previous six to 12 months. The index stood at an aggregate 76 for the third quarter — near its historic peak — and well above its low point of 70.6 in the first quarter of 1996.
As one of the most recognizable models in the world, Christy Turlington Burns has an insider’s view of the fashion industry and the allegations of sexual harassment swirling around it. “I can say that harassment and mistreatment have always been widely known and tolerated in the industry. The industry is surrounded by predators who thrive on the constant rejection and loneliness so many of us have experiences at some point in our careers,” Turlington told WWD, along with her suggestions for how the modeling world should protect younger women and men. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: Tony Palmieri) #wwdnews
@asics America has tapped a new brand ambassador: famed DJ/record producer @steveaoki. This initiative is intended to set the tone for the new brand identity and philosophy and will include partnerships with influencers and in-store and off-line activations that will continue into next year. This is Asics’ most significant marketing effort in two decades, and is expected to attract younger consumers to the brand. #wwdfashion
24-year-old Jean Prounis is redefining the rules of jewelry. Formerly a studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and a design apprentice at Ghuran, she focuses on handcrafted subtleties and ancient goldsmithing techniques. “There was a really sterile feel in the environment and I wanted to have jewelry with character that shapes how you wear it everyday,” Prounis said. Each piece is hand made in New York, either by Prounis or three other jewelers in the district. #wwdfashion
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye