Style: Losing the brand war

Click to follow
The day Tesco began selling Levi's 501s at knock-down prices was the day the death knell sounded for lovers of the famous button-fly jeans with the little red tag.

In the Eighties, Levi's 501s were the epitome of style. They had to be worn ripped to shreds, worn tight over the rear and teamed with a sturdy pair of Dr Marten boots. Everyone wore them, from pop stars and models to the man on the street. Even now, as we approach the end of the Nineties, Levi's still have the biggest market share as they push their Capital "E" vintage dark denim jeans, and have sold about 2.5 billion pairs since 1853, but discerning denim consumers have moved on.

This move away from Levi's is noticeable on the street. At Camden market in London traders used to rely solely on their sales of second-hand, vintage and new Levi's, but customers are more interested in other brands such as Big Blue, Lois, Wrangler and Lee when it comes to buying jeans. Others traders have found military combat trousers more appealing to customers.

At Rokit, a Camden-based company that built its reputation on Levi's, retail sales of 501s have dropped by 30 per cent in the last year, and wholesale sales of the jean, which were sold by the ton, have ceased altogether. This is not to say that Levi's are going down altogether. Adam Cooper, from American Classics, believes that it will never be over for Levi's. "As long as Levi's have got the Capital `E' 501 jean they will stay the best , it's the jean everyone aspires to," he says.

The change that has taken place in the denim market has more to do with youth trends and new designer brands than really bad news for the company. According to market researchers Mintel, the 45-54 age group will be the biggest growth area for jeans in the next four years, and it is unlikely that jeans by Helmut Lang, Dolce e Gabbana, John Rocha, or indeed new cult brand G-Star will attract them. It will, of course be Levi's.