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Levi Strauss public again

Levi Strauss & Co., which gave America its first pair of blue jeans, is public for the second time.

The stock, which is listed under the ticker "LEVI," opened for trading on Thursday up 31 per cent on very strong demand and recently changed hands at $22.90, up $5.90. The offering priced at $17, above an originally expected range of $14 to $16.

As of noon, shares were up nearly 34 per cent.

For the first time, the New York Stock Exchange suspended its "no jeans" policy on Thursday to commemorate the event, transforming the floor from suits and ties into a sea of blue denim, with its traders sporting jeans and denim jackets.

More than 120 employees from Levi's global offices, including its CEO Chip Bergh outfitted in denim, were on the trading floor. On Wednesday, the NYSE even Tweeted, "Tomorrow we'll be in our 501s."

The 166-year-old company, which owns the Dockers and Denizen brands, previously went public in 1971, but the namesake founder's descendants, the Haas family, took it private again in 1985.

The IPO comes as the iconic brand is staging a comeback under Bergh even as it faces increasing competition and a changing retail landscape. Women are opting for yoga pants or other comfortable athletic sportswear that can be worn every day. And the brand is also contending with a shrinking number of department stores, once its traditional venue of distribution.

But since assuming the helm in 2011, Bergh has refashioned the brand and image. It didn't chase after the yoga trend but rather focused on enhancing the fit of its women's jeans with stretchier fabrics. Bergh also has created buzz with partnerships with celebrities like Justin Timberlake while increasing Levi's marketing at events like Coachella, where Beyonce performed in the brand's cut-off shorts.

At the same time, Levi's has been expanding online and juggling between selling to low-end and high-end stores. It's also been opening its own stores.

All of that has helped Levi Strauss turn in a 14 per cent increase in sales to $5.6 billion for the year ended Nov. 25, 2018.



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