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‘If you renovate your store, your sales go up because your customer feels better’

By Smita Sinha | July 03, 2019

In a chat with Retail4Growth, Aasheesh Verma, Head – Store Planning and Development, Levi Strauss & Co, talks about how the right store design makes a difference, why the franchisee model works, and more.

Levi StraussIconic American jeans label Levi Strauss, better known as Levi’s, has come a long way and evolved over the years. The 166-year old brand, which has some 500 stores in 110 countries around the world, runs 99% stores on the franchise model in India. Aasheesh Verma, Head – Store Planning and Development at Levi Strauss & Co shares with Retail4Growth how the store design has evolved over the years, and about the brand’s future plans.

To begin with, can you talk about some of your new initiatives at the store level?

The basic elements or the material palette of the store is more or less static, but how we use them creatively makes all the Levi Strauss & Co difference and that’s the reason our one store looks different from the other one. For example, recently we did a stud façade at Marina Mall in Chennai; we have done strip lighting in the portals, and we have also started balancing out the white plaster finish, combining the neat finished look with a raw feel. In terms of specific stores that stand out, our store at Indira Nagar, Bangalore, matches global standards and is regarded as the best store by the global CEO. We are planning to build a similar store in China as well.

Can you elaborate more on the Indira Nagar store in terms of the design and its objective? What was the thought process behind it?

The store basically reflects brand Levi’s evolution itself. The original Levi’s store had portals and the fixture were put in these portals. Then we evolved from portals to having standard racking system, changing from standard metals to scape boards and wooden shelves. We then evolved from dark and dingy fitouts to white fitouts. About 2 ½ years ago, we infused a raw look to make the store look slightly rough and grungy and it was liked by our global team. After that we started following the same look at the rest of the stores as well. So to attain aesthetic balance, we evolved from the dark, dingy look to the totally white look, and then again added a bit of rawness to the store. The basic idea was to convey that our stores not only cater to the sophisticated consumers, but also appeal to the shopper looking for something more young and grungy, reiterating the fact that it is a denim brand store and not a boutique. At the same time we had to highlight the heritage value of the brand. So maintaining consistency and uniformity of the store design at most of the store locations, while adding some variety was important. In our 50+ premium stores we have also infused a prominent element called cloud ceiling, which is quite expensive.

Also, in some locations we have elevated the feel of the fitting rooms, not only in terms of adding more space, but also in terms of the various elements that we have used inside the fitting rooms – like front lit mirrors, making them more like vanity mirrors, providing phone/laptops charging points, and adding strip lights, giving the fitting rooms a more premium look.

In how many stores have you initiated these changes?

In more than 50% of stores in metros, where the average size of the stores is more than 1200-1500 sqft.

When you plan the budget for different elements in the design, how do you ensure there is some kind of ROI?

There is no direct correlation in terms of ROI. It is intangible. But what we are observing across the globe is that if you renovate your store, your sales goes up, because your customer feels good at the store. The ultimate objective, whatever we do at the store level, is to give the best experience to our consumer. When he visits the store, he should feel elevated. It doesn’t matter if he’s buying less. He will carry the right experience and will come back again.

How many outlets of yours are franchise driven?

About 99% of the outlets are franchise. The franchise model takes away the stress of dealing with local agencies. And it also helps us in focusing on our core business.

Any specific future plans that you would like to share?

We are coming up with a new identity by the end of this year.

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