LEVI'S PLANS OWN 190 U.S. STORES

Byline: Thomas J. Ryan

SAN FRANCISCO--Levi Strauss Associates expects to open about 190 of its own stores in the U.S., it's disclosed in the firm's 10-Q report detailing improved third-quarter results.
A company spokeswoman added that the stores would be open over the next five years. The firm has indicated in the past that it was considering such a store program but said nothing was definite. The program still is dependent upon approval from the Federal Trade Commission.
The stores will include Original Levi's Stores, Dockers Shops and separate outlet stores for Dockers and Levi's. The regular-price stores would be in downtowns and high-visibility, with the goal of enhancing brand image rather than building volume, the spokeswoman said.
These stores would be in addition to its plan to jointly operate a total of 50 Original Levi's Stores and outlets with Designs Inc. in the northeastern U.S. The program was endorsed by the firm's board in a meeting last month, the 10-Q said.
As for the quarter, the firm said that despite a sagging performance in its women's Dockers, earnings rose 10 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30. In contrast to Dockers, the U.S. women Levi's line posted record third-quarter and year-to-date dollar and unit sales.
In women's Dockers, dollar sales were off 45 percent and unit sales down 50 percent in the quarter as production was decreased to reposition the line. The move was due to a market shift away from certain casual sportswear products, such as skirts, dresses, and coordinated products, as well as consumer price-sensitivity, the 10-Q said. The new women's Dockers line is expected to be fully repositioned by spring 1995 to focus on casual core bottoms supported by casual tops.
Net earnings in the quarter rose to $140.9 million from $126.7 million. Sales inched up 1 percent to $1.59 billion from $1.56 billion. Overall, the firm said a 5 percent increase in average unit selling prices in the quarter offset a 3 percent decline in unit sales.
Sales in the U.S. were $1 billion in the quarter, even with 1993, with strength in women's and youth Levi's brand products. Outside the U.S., sales increased 5 percent to $557.3 million.
In the nine months, earnings fell 64 percent to $126.6 million, mostly due to a $248 million after-tax accounting charge. Sales increased less than 1 percent to $4.3 billion. Sales for the full year are expected to be slightly higher than 1993 due to the Europe division and U.S. Levi's brands. Overall unit sales are expected to be weaker due to lower U.S. Dockers sales.
In another development, the firm and the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union announced a management partnership agreement under which workers will have a say in improving production methods and the company will not resist the union's efforts to organize. The ACTWU currently represents 6,000 of Levi's 22,000 domestic workers.

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