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Levi’s Coming Back to Life in China as Stores Reopen, Online Sales Rise

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In China, where COVID-19 first appeared in December, the Levi Strauss & Co opened big shops with weekly sales recovery, and digital sales increased last month. The company also posted better-than-expected earnings and revenues for the first quarter ended 23 February, even though sales in Asia declined due to store closures and Levi’s shares rose by around 3%.

Like many US retailers, Levi’s has been hit by the COVID-19 crisis as lockdowns in China and the United States to curb the spread of the infection forced store closures. Levi’s has stood through the world wars and the 1918 flu pandemic in its 167-year history.

The region’s traffic and sales remained down, but weekly sales output improved sequentially, the company said, adding that revenue from its websites and other online channels increased in March, powered by demand for women’s wear.

Owing to a change in shopping tastes, the retailer has invested more in its e-commerce sector, adding features designed to attract young customers, to cope with declining foot traffic to malls and department stores.

“We’re trying to find ways to connect more strongly with consumers during the period of time that they’re cooped up… We’re going to continue to leverage digital,” Chief Executive Officer Chip Bergh said on a post-earnings call.

Levi’s also plans to furlough all of the country’s retail store employees, a move other retailers have taken as they prolong shop closures. According to its annual report, the company had around 7,300 US employees as of 24 November. To boost its balance sheet, it had borrowed $300 million on a credit facility.

The company said the impact of the outbreak would be “materially significant” for the second quarter, as stores remain closed in the United States, where over 10,000 deaths have been reported.

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