Levi's targets Asia

16 May 2011

NEW DELHI: Levi Strauss, the apparel specialist, is aiming to boost sales in major Asian countries such as India and China, primarily through a brand developed specifically for the region.

Speaking in an interview with the Times of India, Aaron Boey, the company's president, Asia Pacific, said that Denizen, a jeans line that was created in the region, will form an essential element of its future plans.

"Asia is the big growth engine for us and within Asia, clearly, China and India will be the key markets for both Levi's and Denizen," he said.

"In fact, we started test marketing the brand in India and China simultaneously last year and now India is the first market where the brand is going national."

Looking solely at India, Boey suggested the country ranks third among the firm's Asian outlets, and is inside its top 15 geographies worldwide.

To drive growth across India, Denizen will be priced in the 799 rupees to 1,499 rupees range, measured against the cost of around 399 rupees to 499 rupees for generic, undifferentiated alternatives.

"We expect to strengthen our leadership position in the affordable category here through the Denizen brand," said Boey.

"There are new consumers trading up all the time in emerging markets like India and the aim is to get consumers who buy unbranded jeans ... to upgrade to the Denizen brand."

Denizen is actually replacing Signature, launched in India during 2006, and again offering an entry level price of 799 rupees.

"It was a big success here but the idea was to have a global brand," Boey said. "Signature ... was developed on consumer insights based in the US market."

"Unlike Signature, Denizen's brand proposition is based on consumer insights from outside the US - from key markets of India and China."

As part of the this shift, Signature's 250 Indian stores are to be rebranded, while also leveraging a network spanning thousands of other outlets, giving it a deeper distribution than Levi's.

"This transition from Signature to Denizen is not only a change of name; the process will take place over a period of next six months to a year, so that we have to keep at it to make that transition in the consumer's mind," said Boey.

Levi Strauss has also previously withdrawn Dockers and Sykes from India in response to evolving consumer trends and trading conditions, thus focusing on its trademark line and Denizen.

More broadly, Denizen is to be rolled out in Target stores in the US later this year, and Boey was optimistic about its prospects.

"This brand was built on consumer insights from various markets like Brazil, Mexico besides India and China so in that sense, it's truly global in nature," said Boey.

"So consumers across the world will identify with this value brand and it will have resonance across markets."

"If it was only an India story, then Signature could have done the job. Denizen is in a much better position to work as a global brand."

Data sourced from Times of India; additional content by Warc staff