Levi and Strauss & Co
In 1954, flushed with the success of the cotton twill pants it had introduced a few years earlier, Levi brought out a line of permanent press (no-iron) slacks. Within six months, 5 out of every 100 pairs sold had been returned, and Levi had to admit it didn’t have the right fabric for permanent press. Fifteen years later, as the company was planning its major expansion, it hit on a couple of equally dramatic flops. First was the denim bathing suit—which, when wet, weighed the wearer down to the point of imminent drowning. Next was a line of disposable (throw-away) sheets and towels. These, Levi discovered, were not high on the consumer’s list of priorities. Unable to interest hotels in the product, the company was saved when the factory that made the sheets burned down. Levi absorbed the $250,000 loss.
Eventually Levi created six new divisions, ranging from jeans to accessories and including a sizable effort in women’s sportswear, Levi’s for Gals. The diversification3 worked. In the mid-1970s Levi’s sales hit the billion-dollar mark, having taken 125 years to reach that milestone. Four years later sales hit $2 billion. In 1979 the