U.S. Lee to dress Indian women in denim

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BOMBAY -- U.S. apparel giant VF Corp., whose Lee brand leads the upscale jeans segment in India, next month plans a foray into women's denimwear accompanied by aggressive advertising and more retail outlets.

Arvind Fashions, the Bangalore, Karnataka-based VF local licensee, will introduce a new line of women's jeans timed to coincide with Diwali, the beginning of the Hindu new year, when many Indians loosen their purse strings.

Part of the new drive includes increased availability of products across India. In the next two months, five more franchised stores will open, taking the nationwide total to 50. Lee arrived in India in April 1995.

Advertising will continue to focus on Grey Advertising's international theme for Lee, "The jeans that built America". Trikaya Grey Advertising, Bangalore, Karnataka, the local agency handling the brand, has been given $1.1m budget, or nearly 9% of the projected sales in 1997-98, to push Lee as a U.S. icon in a market still in awe of foreign names but driven to cheaper copies.

According to Arvind estimates, men account for nearly 90% of all premium-priced Lee jeans sold in the $25 to $64 range.

Though both Lee and Levi Strauss (India), the Bangalore-based wholly owned subsidiary of San Francisco's Levi Strauss & Co., debuted in India a month apart, Lee currently accounts for 30% of the nascent $30m, 30 million pairs a year upscale denimwear segment. Arvind targets 1997-98 sales for Lee at $12.5m.

Levi's share, at 20%, lags behind, primarily because the company demands a high proportion of Original Levi's Stores dedicated purely to the brand. Levi's accounts for 45 stores Indiawide, 25 of which stock only company products. Levi, like its rival, projects 1997-98 sales of $12.5m. McCann-Erickson India, Bangalore, Karnataka, handles Levi's advertising.

Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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