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Levi’s Retail Inspiration: The Supermarket

NEW YORK — Levi Strauss & Co. has kicked off a campaign to expand and remodel its chain of signature stores.<br><br>The San Francisco-based company last week unveiled its revamped store design at a party at its new SoHo location, at 536 Broadway...

The merchandising at Levi’s new SoHo store currently emphasizes the Type One jeans.

The merchandising at Levi’s new SoHo store currently emphasizes the Type One jeans.

Steve Eichner

NEW YORK — Levi Strauss & Co. has kicked off a campaign to expand and remodel its chain of signature stores.

The San Francisco-based company last week unveiled its revamped store design at a party at its new SoHo location, at 536 Broadway in Manhattan. The 6,600-square-foot unit features a number of new design elements, including explanatory boards near the entrance that show all Levi’s core fits and fabrics, and a large changing area with theatrical curtains to give shoppers a chance to show off their new looks before they commit to buying them.

The company found an atypical source of inspiration for some of the elements in the new store, explained Diane Padovan, vice president of retail for the Levi’s brand.

“We wanted to come up with something innovative, so we wanted to look outside the apparel business,” she said. “We thought, who else has fresh product that they need to turn quickly? And we looked at the food business.”

The major new design feature is a revamp of the wall of cubbyholes that has become a key element of jeans merchandising. In the new location, the wall is covered with heavy doors reminiscent of refrigerator doors. Outside each door hangs a representative pair of the style of jeans that are stacked behind the door by style and wash.

Stainless steel pegs, about a foot long and two inches thick, protrude from the front of these doors, allowing jeans to be draped over them, reminiscent of drying pasta sheets. This, Padovan said, is a good way of quickly presenting the range of fabric colors and washes available.

The rear of the store features a large communal changing area. About a dozen changing booths are enclosed in individual, thick red curtains, surrounding an area with benches and chairs.

The idea, Padovan said, is that friends shopping together can comfortably try on a new pair of jeans in private and then open the curtains to get the thumbs-up or down on the new look.

The store features the entire Levi’s brand range, from Red Tab jeans retailing for about $40 a pair to the Levi’s Red and Levi’s Vintage Clothing collections, each of which retails for around $250.

“This is really an opportunity for us to show our entire range,” said Padovan.

For spring, the store’s merchandising emphasis is on the new Type One style of dark denim jeans with exaggerated stitching, buttons and other trim elements.

Levi’s, which operates 13 stores under the Levi’s brand, opened the SoHo location and another new store with the new format in Portland, Ore., in December. It plans to open two more stores with the format this year: One in Santa Monica, Calif., by the end of June, and one in Miami’s South Beach by mid-July. Four of the existing Original Levi’s Store units, including the one on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, are to be remodeled with the fresh format this year.

According to Levi’s annual report recently filed with the Securities & Exchange Commission, about 1 percent of the company’s sales came through its wholly-owned stores in the fiscal year ended Nov. 24. That would put its retail revenues at about $41 million. Levi’s operates 53 stores worldwide, including 20 in the Americas.