Levi’s Strauss CEO, Charles Bergh, revealed that one of the first decisions he made after joining the company was to fire more than half of his executives. Bergh believed that changing the culture of the company required changing the people within it. He admitted that his biggest regret was not firing underperforming leaders fast enough. Despite the initial challenges, Bergh successfully turned around the once “broken” brand, leading to significant revenue growth and building a strong team centered around the Levi’s brand.
Since his arrival in 2011, Levi’s has experienced a revival after a long period of erratic performance. Bergh acknowledged that the brand was lost and struggling, but he was able to bring it back into the limelight. Levi’s achieved 8% annual revenue growth in 2017, its highest in a decade, and continued to grow with a 14% year-on-year revenue increase in 2018. Bergh attributes this success to his team and their efforts in shaking the company out of complacency and putting the brand at the center of the culture. However, the company recently cut its 2023 profit outlook due to a decline in wholesale revenue and soft sales in the U.S., its largest market, indicating that there are still challenges ahead.
Despite the obstacles, Levi’s sees potential for growth in Asia, particularly in China. While Asia currently accounts for less than 20% of the company’s total sales and China makes up less than 3% of its total business, Bergh views this as an opportunity. He believes that revenge spending among Chinese customers will be a significant opportunity for the brand. Levi’s plans to expand its footprint in Asia, with a focus on opening bigger stores and increasing consumer impact. The company aims to add about 100 doors per year globally, with a third of them located in Asia.