fashion

Denim's Comeback: Levi's Gains, Walmart Launching Sofia Vergara Jeans


In more evidence that nothing can fade America’s love for dungarees, Walmart says it is introducing Sofía Jeans by Sofía Vergara. And Levi Strauss & Co. just reported strong sales, with consumers in North America and Europe especially enthusiastic about denim.

The new line from Walmart is the latest in a series of its fashion maneuvers, including its Premium Shop with Lord & Taylor — which offers 150 different brands — and EV1 with Ellen DeGeneres.

The 100-item Sofía line includes sizes up to 20, and offers jackets, tops and tees. All items cost $40 or less.

Denim’s renewed appeal is also driving strong results at Levi Strauss, which is reportedly mulling going public this year. The San Francisco-based company, which reports financial results because of its publicly traded bonds, says revenues for the quarter climbed 9% to $1.59 billion in the fourth quarter. Net income decreased 17% to $97 million, mainly because of changes in its tax structure.

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In the Americas, sales rose 8%, and in Europe, 13%. Sales in Asia rose 5%.

“The company's merchandising and branding efforts are bearing fruit, with strong growth across categories and geographies,” writes Fitch Ratings, which increased its rating of Levi Strauss last week. “Levi's brand and offering are clearly trend-right currently, and the company is successfully exploiting opportunities to capitalize on this momentum through new product assortments, brand and celebrity collaborations, and square-footage expansion.”

For years now, pundits have said that the rise of athleisure and those comfy yoga pants might signal a permanent disenchantment with denim. But the NPD Group says that denim brands’ move to make jeans more comfortable, often adding stretchy fibers, is paying off, with a 9% increase in sales of women’s jeans in the 12 months ending in July.

In that same 12-month period, overall jeans sales rose 5% to $16.4 billion, compared with gains of just 1% in the overall apparel market. Skinny jeans still reign supreme, up 6%, accounting for 40% of all women’s jeans sales.

Other brands, though, are struggling. Last month, VF Corp. reported that quarterly sales of its Wrangler jeans fell 2%, while sales of Lee jeans dropped 9%.

VF is in the process of spinning its denim division off into a new company, Kontoor Brands, so it can better focus on growth brands in its portfolio, including Vans, Timberland and the North Face.

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