The pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity for long-established, and sometimes sagging, brands to reset their relevance to a broad consumer base seeking basic, stable comforts in a refreshed package and presentation fitted to modern sensibilities.
It explains why Target and Walmart, two of the most important and progressive operators crafting the blueprint for the next generation of omnichannel retail success, are partnering with Levi’s and Gap, respectively, on new home furnishings collections.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that Levi’s and Gap were flagbearers of a casual, All-American fashion ideal. That is, until they became the veritable poster children of the demise of good, old-fashioned jeans and, more symbolically, of an aging Baby Boomer generation.
As the fashion-forwardness of Levi’s and Gap faded, an upstart crop of uber-trendy super-premium designer jeans emerged with strong appeal across generations. Younger consumers also flocked to a new age of low-priced, high-fashion specialty outlets that espoused more of a throw-away, frequent-replacement approach to fleeting style trends.
It is reasonable to credit the pandemic for the resurgence of basic, timeless styles and values embodied by brands such as Levi’s and Gap brands. Plenty of credit also goes to the brands’ leadership, who seized opportunities before the pandemic to begin refreshing the icons for maturing Millennials less inclined to throw-away consumption.
And give credit to Target and Walmart for jumping into home product collaborations with such renascent, classic fashion labels at a time when controlled-brand exclusivity is more vital than ever in a marketplace of blurred channel lines.
That Target and Walmart are partnering with Levi’s and Gap brands, historically kept from such big-box domains, speaks volumes about the need for once-limited brands to secure shelf and e-commerce space with the most prolific retailers of any class.
For Target, which in recent years has successfully restored the “shabby chic” positioning on which it built its national expansion, Levi’s seems to be neither shabby nor chic. Rather, Levi’s has the pedigree to become a fashionably credible, long-term anchor that Target can balance against trendier brands and styles.
Walmart actually paved its opportunity to bring in a specialty store brand such as Gap several years ago when it acquired Jet.com and several boutique online e-commerce brands, moves that widened Walmart’s overall consumer reach and relevance.
Classic is, indeed, cool again.
And if Levi’s and Gap once weren’t a good fit for retailers like Target and Walmart or for high-profile home product collections, now they seem to fit just right.