‘We can be a lot faster’: Levi’s Marc Rosen on how the denim brand’s business has evolved

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Marc Rosen has worn many hats -- or, perhaps, pants -- at Levi’s.

Today, he’s the president of the apparel brand’s Americas business. But he’s been at the company for seven years -- first joining to grow Levi’s e-commerce business. As such, he’s seen a lot of changes, both within the company and in retail as a whole. On the Modern Retail Podcast, Rosen spoke about what he’s been observing, as well as how his role at Levi’s has changed both over the years and during the pandemic.

Thinking back to the retail landscape almost a decade ago, Rosen said, “I think almost everything has changed.”

But, of course, many of the most drastic changes happened in the last year. And that also coincided with a new position for Rosen. Instead of just leading the online business, Rosen began overseeing all of Levi’s Americas business -- including wholesale -- in January of 2020. As such, the pandemic was certainly a crash course in navigating a new facet of the brand’s business.

“The wholesale world, to some extent, for me was new,” he said. “It was really a learning experience about building that relationship.”

Much of that learning experience was focused on figuring out where and how people were shopping. For example, while Levi’s is available in many brick and mortar stores, it also has wholesale relationships with online retailers. “Consumers moved so quickly into digital,” Rosen said, and the first part of the pandemic was working both inside Levi’s and with partners to try and navigate that shift.

This also brought about a big change in how Levi’s as a company rolled out new products. For large companies, it’s hard to adopt a startup-like ethos of test and learn. But during a global pandemic, that’s all retailers were able to do. They had to adapt in an instant, launch and figure things out from there. The big lesson Rosen learned, he said, is “we can be a lot faster.” Instead of very slowly building something internally, more programs can see the light of day faster and be iterated upon.

The pandemic, he said, brought about these lessons. Normally, he explained, “we probably would have built [out a new feature or program], and waited until it was perfect to roll it out. But in a pandemic, you don’t have that luxury.”

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