Sunday, February 5, 2012

Levi's Strauss & Co - Business Strategy

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Levi Strauss & Co

Levi Strauss & Co (LSC) has grown from a small local entity to a multinational structure, a worldwide leading manufacturer. This evolution led to several problems detailed in this paper.

Organizational structure

The gap between industry shifts and LSC organization have put LSC far behind new entrants.

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Internal issues dictated how the firm reacted to the external environment.

Thus the firm organization was inadequate to the industry rules and LSC had to face many times re-organizations made in a hurry and which did not pay attention to all the issues raised by those processes.

The statutes shift ebbs and flows between a private and a publicly owned company due to financial issues LSC did not follow a unique financial strategy and this uncertainty brought about an unclear position towards Wall Street and its investors.

Moreover those statutes changes did not allow LSC to follow a long-run strategy. Regarding the private company, the centralized organization implemented by the Haas family in the early nineties did not suit to a turbulent and dynamic industry. Indeed this pyramidal structure narrowed the headquarters’ vision of what is done on a market and consequently the firm could not offer a sustainable competitiveness. In the publicly owned company, shareholders were not aware of certain issues and asked for short-term profits that came in opposition with the managers’ strategy and the paternalistic vision.

Nevertheless the social-value driven company and its strong paternalistic culture did not allow LSC a good flexibility against new entrants, who were relocating in low labor cost countries searching for a decrease in fixed costs to fit the new industry rules.


As LSC did not anticipate the new producing rules required by the industry, the company was forced to begin an Asian production far behind competitors, even if it is an opposition to its traditional paternalistic vision.

Finally in 18, the new managing team leaded by Marineau, decided to implement what LSC has ever feared to do and pushed back several times as long as they could to outsource its domestic production. “White-collar” workforce was nevertheless kept in United States of

America, conserving their strong culture, in order not to break the value chain. Indeed LSC has increased their flexibility, a fundamental factor in the current industry.

As a matter of fact, LSC has never been on time with demand it has showed a lack of adaptability and flexibility of its production system.

Marketing mix

Product At the beginning, LSC used an innovative patent and then when it felt into public domain, LSC did not renew their innovation policy. Totally brand new products were only launched in the eighties the Bleached and Stone-Washed jeans, and the successful Dockers brand launch. This shows a dramatic lack of innovation.

Distribution the reconfiguration of the industry by the entrance of mass merchandisers created new distribution rules in the garment industry. Jeans began to be sold in mass distribution. LSC has never made a clear choice about their distribution network and went ebbs and flows between specialized stores and mass distribution. Its strategy put LSC on opposition to the mass distribution. It ended to cannibalize its own products.

Communication LSC has faced an outdated image troubled by the expensive 184 Olympics Games advertising failure. Moreover we can wonder how relevant this campaign was, as it targeted athletes. Consequently the consumers were more confused about the identity of Levi’s as a brand.


First as a local wholesaler targeting a niche, LSC had a hard time facing their new core business manufacturer of jean pants at an international level. They have shown a stubborn attitude in managing their brand. The Haas family had “sacralized” their own view of directing LSC, apart from external environment and the modern market.

In fact, LSC had never defined a clear and coherent strategy regarding expansion, management, distribution, financial issues, production processes as well as a lack of innovation. This situation troubled LSC’ s relationships with its partners.

LSC has to implement its own long-term strategy in accordance with the industry and the market trends. Marineau team succeeded in making LSC as the captain of the garment industry, but it needs to anticipate the industry and market shifts in order to survive.

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