Adapt to unforeseeable change

There are trends and activities we expect to stay in the zeitgeist forever, so much so that it becomes shocking when someone suggests those trends may be going by the wayside.

Take, for instance, denim jeans. If I said that we could realistically see the clothing staple exit stores within a generation or two for half the population, would that shock you?

Possibly, but maybe it wouldn’t if you have seen anecdotal evidence in your own lives that matches recent data: Sales of yoga pants by women were equal to sales of women’s jeans last year for the first time ever, in the same year that revenue of women’s jeans fell 8 percent. Men’s denim is doing just fine, but women’s is hurting bad.

A fascinating article by Bloomberg Business investigates these trends and how one specific brand, Levi – the company that founded the article of clothing in 1853 – has been working to adapt with the trend of “athleisure.” It’s truly worth a read.

One of the largest takeaways from the article is that Levi’s never saw yoga pants coming – who would choose to wear workout pants in place of sturdy, reliable denim? The data shows clearly that the answer is a lot of women.

Being able to predict the unpredictable isn’t really the answer for us here, but quick adaptability to trends is what we should take away from this story.

Levi’s is a privately owned company and thus has had the luxury of not having to respond to change by anyone else’s terms but its own, which certainly comes with advantages. However, it has been it the company’s own chagrin that it hasn’t adapted with the evolving apparel trends and now it is trying to play catch up. There is a difference between being reactionary to a fad and ignoring consumers’ consistent changing attitudes. Levi’s is an example of the latter.

In an effort to make necessary changes, Levi’s isn’t reinventing itself and selling yoga pants, but it is now undergoing a redesign to provide some of what consumers who buy yoga pants are looking for – stretch, comfort and a leisurely fit – while staying true to its flagship product. It is contemporizing its brand to meet the needs of the modern consumer.

In order to not end up like Levi’s, we need to be sure that we contemporize our own brands to meet the needs of the new consumers, while still staying true to our own products and existing customer base.

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