Levi Strauss & Co.’s Chip Bergh: Reviving a brand that stands for something

When Chip Bergh took the CEO job at Levi Strauss & Co. in 2011, the company had seen better days. Bergh accepted the challenge of restoring the iconic American brand not just to profitability, but to prominence in American culture; what he has succeeded in since hasn’t just been a restoration, but a transformation. Levi’s has done something not many brands can do — become cool again for a new generation.

This year, NRF recognized Bergh as “The Visionary,” an honor presented to a retail executive with a proven track record of orchestrating change in the industry. At NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show, and shortly before his recognition at the NRF Foundation Gala, Bergh sat down with NRF’s Ellen Davis and Steve Barr, consumer markets leader for PwC, to chat more about the strategy for turning the company around, as well as the values that drive Levi’s to take a stand on issues that matter.

At its core, Levi's is a brand we all know and love, but it's also a company grounded on profits with principles — as it has been since it was founded 165 years ago when Levi Strauss himself donated part of his first profits to a local orphanage.

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Bergh says one of the things that brought him to Levi’s is that the company has a long history of “profits through principles,” a fundamental belief that doing business in the right way is good business and consumers will reward you for it. “And in today's day and age,” Bergh says, “especially young consumers around the world, they want to buy brands that represent a good value but also that have good values. It's about value and values.”

“At the end of the day, we'll take a position on things that really matter,” Bergh says.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about how Chip Bergh helped revive the Levi’s brand for a new generation, find retail success and return to the center of culture.

Find more stories from NRF 2019: Retail's Big Show on the official show recap.

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