Video Discussion: Levi’s CFO Harmit Singh on Bloomberg Chief Future Officer

Discussion questions for FASH455:

  1. Regarding Levi’s “new normal” for apparel sourcing and supply chain management, what is Harmit Singh’s vision? Why or why not do you agree with him?
  2. How could Levi’s digital transformation plans affect its sourcing practices?
  3. What is your evaluation of Levi’s “tailor shop” program?
  4. What is the rationale behind Levi’s “buy better and wear better” initiative?
  5. What is a chief financial officer (CFO)’s role in helping Levi’s achieve its sustainability goals?
  6. Anything else you find interesting/intriguing/new/inspiring from the video and why?

About Levi’s

Levi’s supplier map (source: Open Apparel Registry)

Levi Strauss & Co is a global apparel company rooted in the jeans category. Its brand portfolio consists of Levi’s brand, Levi’s Signature, Dockers, and Denizen. In 2020, Levi’s global sales exceeded $7.1 billion. The United States is Levi’s largest market, accounting for about 41% of its sales in 2020, followed by Mexico. As of June 2021, Levi’s sources its apparel products from around 350 factories located in about 30 countries.

Years before the pandemic, Levi Strauss has begun to reduce its reliance on wholesalers and instead expand its direct-to-consumer (DTC) business. In response to COVID-19, Levi Strauss has increased flexibility and resilience through diversification across geographies, categories, genders, and distribution channels. Levi’s is also well-known as a leader in sustainability, particularly reducing chemical and water use in products.

Author: Sheng Lu

Professor @ University of Delaware

9 thoughts on “Video Discussion: Levi’s CFO Harmit Singh on Bloomberg Chief Future Officer”

  1. After watching, it can be concluded that Hermit Singh’s vision is to guide the Levi’s brand into using more digital technology, while meeting sustainability criteria. Along with this, its his goal to make sure all practices Levi’s uses to develop and sell its product are also falling within this category of transformation for the company. Singh wants to bring Levi’s into the future, by keeping it up to speed with procedures that will allow for company flourishment. I agree with Hermit Singh’s vision because it will allow for maximum efficiency in production and manufacturing, especially within the company supply chain. Also, the brand’s effort to grow e-commerce presence and maintain engagement with consumers is something that goes along with this vision, keeping the brand relevant amongst its competitors.

  2. 1. The new normal for Levi’s includes that it tries to not put all the eggs in one basket by sourcing across 24 countries, with less than 20% in each to prevent supply chain disruption. I agree with Hamit Singh’s strategy because under the pandemic, supply chain disruptions can happen unexcitingly in any country due to travel bans and, it is much safer to diversify retailers’ supply sources given the current situation.
    2. Levi’s digital transformation plans have made its sourcing process more efficient by bringing the production closer to the market. With help like laser technology, Levi’s was able to bring production back home to better engage with the consumers while preventing shipping disruptions.
    3. I think it’s a good idea as it creates a sense of community. It not only supports sustainability but also provides a space for people to hang out on the weekends, letting people build relationships with one another as well as the brand.
    4. The rationale is that sustainability is a priority of many millennial consumers and the sustainable initiative, helping Levi’s to reach more new consumers. So, even though people buy less, more consumers will be brought in, which will help the company to make more profit while benefiting the environment.
    5. CFO facilitates the formation of the supply chain as well as the sustainability team. CFO is responsible for helping the team to decide what’s the priority in sustainability and how should the resources be allocated, for example, to invest or to save for the long term.
    6. I’m inspired by Harmit Singh’s passion for his job and his beliefs on how to motivate a team. He emphasized how important listening skills, being empathetic, authentic, and building trust were to a successful leader. He was able to combine his hobbies with his job by playing sports with his colleagues while at downtime, which is not only relaxing but also building trust in the team. I think his vision is not only key to being a successful CFO but to building a cohesive team, which can be applied to any environment.

  3. Levi’s Strauss and Co. operates differently than many other apparel brands, as they focus on investment over initial profit as well as building relationships with customers. The “Buy Better and Wear Longer” initiative invests in the future of the environment and health of society while also connecting with customers, particularly Millennials and younger. The idea is to encourage consumers to make more thoughtful, higher-quality purchases and wear them frequently and for a long time. Using this language in Levi’s ads suggests to viewers that Levi’s products are high quality and will last a long time, which in turn promotes sales. Their in-house tailoring is another great way to elevate the customer experience, encourage sustainable consumption, and relate to the customer. Both concepts illustrate to customers that Levi’s understands their needs, making the brand feel more relatable rather than a cold, impersonal company that focuses only on profit.

  4. Since 2013, Levi Strauss & Co’s CFO has driven the investments to make Levi’s a more sustainable company. Levi’s opened the Eureka Innovation Lab in 2013, which has helped Levi’s significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. Since then, Levi’s has made sustainability a central point of its brand image. Levi’s developed the “buy better and wear better” initiative in lieu of its sustainability campaign . “Buy better wear better” encourages consumers to buy better quality clothing that will last them a longer time in order to promote less consumption. Levi’s believes they will be able to reach a new consumer which in turn will increase their revenue.

  5. Regarding Levi’s “new normal” for apparel sourcing and supply chain management, what is Harmit Singh’s vision? Why or why not do you agree with him?
    -Regarding Levi’s “new normal” for apparel sourcing and supply chain management, Harmit Singh’s vision is that he does not want to put all their eggs in one basket. Levi’s sources from 24 countries, with no more than 20% coming from a single country. I agree with this strategy because it allows Levi’s to have flexibility with where their products are coming from. If problems arise in one country, Levi’s will not have to scramble, as they will already have operations set up in a different location that production can be shifted to. It provides a safety net for Levi’s.

    How could Levi’s digital transformation plans affect its sourcing practices?
    -Levi’s digital transformation plans will affect its sourcing practices, as it will bring its innovation closer to home. With the Air Flex program, where lasers are used to finish denim products, Levi’s finishes their products much closer to their end market, giving them the ability to engage with consumers while preventing shipping problems.

    What is your evaluation of Levi’s “tailor shop” program?
    -Levi’s “tailor shop” program gives them the ability to directly engage with consumers, while making a positive impact on sustainability. By having tailor shops in many of their stores, customers are better able to connect with the brand. The tailor shops create a sense of community within Levi’s brick and mortar stores.

    What is the rationale behind Levi’s “buy better and wear better” initiative?
    -Levi’s “buy better and wear better” initiative is aimed at reducing consumption. Millennials and younger generations are interacting and engaging with consumer companies they aspire to be more sustainable. This has allowed Levi’s to reach more and newer consumers. Even though people are buying less, Levi’s believes they are reaching out to a lot more customers. They are growing revenue and profitability while ensuring their products are sustainable.

    What is a chief financial officer (CFO)’s role in helping Levi’s achieve its sustainability goals?
    -The Chief Financial Officer plays a vital role in helping Levi’s achieve its sustainability goals. The CFO guides upper management in deciding what the focus areas are, how they distort resources, and deciding the investment to focus areas that are going to matter most.

    Anything else you find interesting/intriguing/new/inspiring from the video and why?
    -It is really inspiring to me that Levi’s has been able to see success for so long. They really embody the idea of rebranding, as they have grown so much since their founding in 1853. With the help of Harmit Singh, the brand has been able to grow financially, and make huge strides in technology and sustainability. It is a testament to the brand that they are loved and worn by so many different generations.

  6. 1. Harmit Singh’s aim for Levi’s “new normal” in garment sourcing and supply chain management is to be diverse when it comes to sourcing. Levi’s sources from 24 nations spreading out the sourcing responsibilities, instead of sourcing from one country like most other companies tend to do. I think Levi’s plan is a good one since it gives them a lot of control over where their goods come from. Levi’s will not have to panic if issues develop in one nation since they already have operations in another region that manufacturing can be relocated to. Supply chain disruption occurs less when sourcing is diverse.

    2. Levi’s digital transformation efforts have improved the company’s sourcing process by manufacturing in the country. For example, Levi’s was able to reduce shipping delays by bringing manufacture back to the U.S. with the use of laser technology, Air Flex.

    4. Consumption is being reduced by Levi’s “buy better and wear better” promotion. Despite the fact that individuals are buying less, additional customers will be brought in, allowing the corporation to generate more money while also improving the environment. The goal is to get people to buy more thoughtfully, spend more money, and wear their items more often and for a longer period of time. This also alines with how consumers are thinking as well, meaning that Levi’s is listening to what their customer wants which is a more sustainable way of life..

  7. It is evident that Hermit Sing’s vision is to bring digitalized technology in a sustainable matter to Levi’s brand. Sing is looking to bring futuristic qualities to Levi’s as they use advanced features within the fashion and technological industries to keep an edge amongst competitors. Using advanced technology within their production process will increase efficiency, production, and manufacturing amongst their company – setting them apart from the rest. Sing additionally is looking to grow their e-commerce presence while maintaining consumer engagement, coinciding with their vision to create a competitive advantage amongst digitized advancements.

  8. Regarding Levi’s “new normal” for apparel sourcing and supply chain management, Harmit Singh’s vision includes refashioning by digital technology which will help prevent revenue decreases as we saw during the pandemic. Levi is now making sure all of its processes from sourcing to sales are integrated into the transformation of new digital technology while also meeting sustainability targets. I agree with Singh’s vision because I think in order for fashion brands to be truly successful, it is essential to keep up-to-date with technology as well. Advanced technology will help manufacture products as rapidly and efficiently as possible. Although Levi’s has been around for years and has a great reputation, they can not rely solely on their name to stay on top. In order to keep its status the brand, like the future, should continue to move forward.

  9. 1)Harmits vision for sourcing was to not put all their eggs in one basket so they source across 24 countries and they dont source more than 20% within each country. I think that this is a good idea because it allows for multiple options for when problems occur. This plan allows for them to have backup sources opposed to if they only had one sourcing option and something unpredictable happened.
    3)My evaluation of the tailor shop is positive. It not only Allows them to directly engage with their consumer but it also creates a more trusting relationship with their customers. People will be more willing to purchase them knowing that they have the tailor shop available to them.
    4)The rationale behind Levi’s “buy better and wear better” is that they believe that the younger generation aspires to be more sustainable and it allows them to reach out to newer consumers. So even if people buy less, they are still reaching out to a lot of new consumers and that’s why it will grow the revenue and profitability, while knowing that they are doing the right thing with sustainability.
    5)The chief financial officer role in helping Levi’s achieve its sustainability goals is that they are involved in the strategic direction such as, how they are going to get there and how are they going to invest in order to actually make it a reality. Also sustainability reports go in through the CFO so they have the supply chain as well as the sustainability team. They also need the help of the CFO to help them figure out the focus ideas and how they distort their resources and their investments to the areas that are going to matter the most.
    6)I found the laser technology and the process of it to be interesting. It was also interesting to see the prints on the pants being produced and to see how it is more environmentally beneficial for them to use this as the type of denim finish compared to other types of denim finishes.

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