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Levi Strauss is slimming its Dockers to revitalize brand

The pants maker wants to win back customers who have switched to purchasing slacks from rival companies.

October 04, 2008|From Bloomberg News

Levi Strauss & Co., the world's largest jeans maker, is slimming down the look of its Dockers casual pants after losing touch with the changing tastes of American men.

"We've been keeping the same fits in the marketplace for too long," Chief Executive John Anderson said after San Francisco-based Levi reported that U.S. demand for Dockers fell in the nine months through Aug. 24. The brand's new mantra: "Regardless of your shape, we can make you look good," he said.

Levi plans to emphasize slimmer-fitting styles of Dockers khakis in 100 U.S. stores this year as part of a revamp of the 22-year-old brand, which accounts for about a fifth of annual revenue. The company wants to win back customers who have switched to Columbia Sportswear Co. and other rivals.

"The fit is kind of funky," said Don Gilchrist, 54, a Greensboro, N.C., restaurant broker. He stopped wearing Dockers a decade ago and now wears Columbia pants because they're "more comfortable and better quality," he said.

Dockers, the top-selling U.S. casual slacks, introduced two new styles since 2007, slim and straight fit, to go along with its classic and relaxed styles, said brand spokesman John Ordona. Store displays will emphasize those four styles in the next year and focus less on colors, stain resistance and other characteristics. Those switches reflect what Dockers "has identified as a major sea change," Ordona said.

"Men are updating their style and cleaning up the way they wear their pants," he said. "Silhouettes have become slimmer. It's clean and not baggy."

The straight pant has minimal details and no pleats and is made with stitching above the back pockets for a smoother finish, according to the Dockers website. The style straight fit retails for $60 on the site, whereas Dockers classic fit sells for $48.

Dockers' target audience is men in their 20s to 50s, Ordona said. Part of the audience is overweight men, Anderson said.

"Even if people are getting just short of peak fitness, we are making sure that those fits look as flattering as they possibly can," Anderson said. "There has been a trend in the marketplace toward more regular-fitting, trimmer garments."

There's demand for slimmer fits, said Bob Blumenthal, the owner of Blumenthal's clothing store in Greensboro. Most of his male customers are overweight and complain that their pants look "too full," he said.

"They look at themselves in the mirror and say, 'These look too big. Don't you have something slimmer?'" Blumenthal said.

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