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Edited Transcript of Levi.N earnings conference call or presentation 7-Jul-20 9PM GMT

Updated: May 28, 2021

Q2 2020 Levi Strauss & Co Earnings Call

San Francisco Aug 20, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Levi Strauss & Co earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, July 7, 2020 at 9:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript


Corporate Participants


* Aida Orphan

Levi Strauss & Co. - Senior Director of IR & Risk Management

* Charles Victor Bergh

Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director

* Harmit J. Singh

Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO


Conference Call Participants


* Carla Casella

JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst

* Dana Lauren Telsey

Telsey Advisory Group LLC - CEO & Chief Research Officer

* Heather Nicole Balsky

BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - VP

* Jay Daniel Sole

UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Executive Director and Equity Research Analyst of Softlines & Luxury

* Kimberly Conroy Greenberger

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - MD

* Laurent Andre Vasilescu

Exane BNP Paribas, Research Division - Research Analyst

* Matthew Robert Boss

JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst

* Omar Regis Saad

Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD and Head of Softlines, Luxury & Department Stores Team

* Paul Lawrence Lejuez

Citigroup Inc., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst

* Robert Scott Drbul

Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Senior MD




Operator [1]


Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Levi Strauss & Co. Second Quarter Earnings Conference Call for the period ending May 24, 2020. (Operator Instructions) This conference is being recorded and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the company. A telephone replay will be available 2 hours after the completion of this call through July 13, 2020.

(Operator Instructions) This conference call is also being broadcast over the Internet, and a replay of the webcast will be accessible for 1 quarter on the company's website, I would now like to turn the call over to Aida Orphan, Senior Director, Shareholder Relations and Risk Management at Levi Strauss & Co.


Aida Orphan, Levi Strauss & Co. - Senior Director of IR & Risk Management [2]


Thank you for joining us on the call today. Joining me today are Chip Bergh, President and CEO; and Harmit Singh, Executive Vice President and CFO. We have posted complete Q2 financial results in our earnings release on the IR section of our website,

We'd like to remind everyone that we will be making forward-looking statements on this call, which involve risks and uncertainties. In particular, at this time, there is significant uncertainty regarding the duration and extent of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company's business, financial condition, cash flow and results of operations. Our actual results could differ materially from those contemplated by our forward-looking statements.

Reported results should not be considered as an indication of future performance. Please review our filings with the SEC, in particular, the Risk Factors section of the Form 10-Q that we filed today for a discussion of the factors that could cause our results to differ. Please note that the forward-looking statements on this call are based on available (technical difficulty).


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [3]


Aida, I think we lost you.


Aida Orphan, Levi Strauss & Co. - Senior Director of IR & Risk Management [4]


To the most directly comparable GAAP financial measures are provided in the earnings release on our IR website. These non-GAAP measures are not intended to be a substitute for our GAAP results. Finally, this call in its entirety is being webcast on our IR website, and a replay of this call will be available on the website shortly. Today's call is scheduled for 1 hour. Please limit yourself to 1 question at a time. And now I'd like to turn over the call to Chip.


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [5]


Thanks, Aida. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining our Q2 earnings call. This quarter has been defined by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout from it, which dramatically impacted our business during the quarter with virtually all of our retail stores and most wholesale doors closed for the vast majority of the quarter.

I'm proud of how the team stepped up in response, prioritizing consumer and employee safety, while accelerating our activation of key e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities, proactively cutting costs, smartly managing cash and finding more innovative ways to connect the Levi's brand with its fans.

I'm going to let Harmit take you through all of the details from the quarter so that I can focus my comments on 2 key areas. I'll start with the current environment and how we've managed through the pandemic and into early recovery. And then after Harmit reviews Q2, I'll share some thoughts on how the pandemic will impact both the retail landscape and consumer behavior, and why I'm optimistic and confident that we are ideally positioned to win in the post-COVID world.

We now have roughly 90% of our stores open globally, and performance during the reopening phase has tracked better than we expected. We are cautiously optimistic about the early trends we're seeing in our reopened stores, and the strong performance of our e-commerce business. Having said that, there are still a lot of uncertainties. Will there be another wave? How bad will the economic downturn be? How long will the recovery take?

We are already seeing consumers think, act and buy differently, while holding greater expectations and demanding more from the brands they buy. Let me highlight 4 key points for us as we've navigated the pandemic and early recovery. They are: first, continuing to build our brand and deepen our connection with consumers; second, investing in and accelerating e-commerce and omnichannel capabilities; third, accelerating the pace of digitizing the company and leveraging AI and data; and fourth, driving product newness and excitement.

Let me walk you through some details on each one of these. First, we continue to invest in brand building by maintaining a deep connection with our consumers. Engaging with them virtually at unprecedented levels on social media through live music streaming and do-it-yourself customization, launching new collaborations that made waves in the industry with immediate sellouts, and partnering with global influencers as we told immersive stories on our blog, which has seen record high viewings.

We continued our 501 live concert series on Instagram live streaming performances from some of our favorite artists. And in celebration of 501 Day, we threw a virtual music festival with a full day of content featuring live music, style tutorials and Levi's history, reaching 147 million impressions.

And we continue to pilot new channels for commerce that are particularly relevant with Gen Z. We were one of the first brands to launch on TikTok's new Shop Now program in the U.S. partnering with influencers to showcase Levi's F.L.X. laser technology, which drove 5.5 million video views on TikTok as well as increased traffic and sales to our site.

Our recently launched mobile app represents an evolution of our online shopping experience aimed at fostering and growing the brand's connection with our consumers. Online enrollment rates have nearly doubled since entering shelter-in-place. And due to strong response, combined with the increased importance of building deeper connections with our fans, we just rolled out our loyalty program nationally.

Second, we have invested heavily to strengthen our position as a leading world-class omnichannel retailer. And during the quarter, we accelerated a full suite of omnichannel capabilities in the U.S., some that had been in the works and others that we quickly launched in response to consumer preferences.

Here are a few examples. While they were closed, we turned our stores into micro-fulfillment centers, leveraging our ship-from-store capabilities to fulfill online orders and move through inventory. 30% of our online demand was fulfilled by stores in the month of May, contributing to e-commerce growth of 79% that month.

We rolled out curbside pickup and are now live in 80% of our stores. We launched a new virtual concierge, offering consumers the chance to have one-on-one interactions with a store associate in the comfort of their own home, and we're seeing strong conversion rates. This work has continued into Q3 as we pulled forward the rollout of buy online pickup in-store in 20% of our stores and plan to complete the rollout to the remaining U.S. stores in the coming months.

We've begun testing appointment scheduling in select stores, enabling consumers to skip the line and get immediate access into the store. And in the next few weeks, we will begin piloting same-day delivery for our consumers. This program, along with others that we are exploring, will offer our consumers several forms of contactless retail shopping, expanding the way consumers can shop with us. We're also rolling out omnichannel capabilities in various markets around the world in phases, and we'll keep you updated on that work as it progresses.

The third focal point has been to accelerate our overall digital transformation and leverage the use of data, analytics and machine learning in more aspects of our business. We're applying a data-driven approach to determining appropriate promotion levels. As just 1 example, during a major e-commerce promotion event in Europe, we were able to amplify revenues, units sold and profits 4x what we did in the previous year.

We are also using AI in our U.S. stores to ensure we're optimizing margins and fulfilling orders in the most efficient way, which has been critical with the recent rollout of ship from store. And we're using AI to enable personalized benefits in our newly launched loyalty program, further cultivating loyal fans.

Our F.L.X. laser finishing technology enables us to reduce lead times to better match inventory to the current demand trends, and we've accelerated the use of digital and virtual design and product development tools that have helped us maintain our creative activities during shelter-in-place, which will also provide advantages in time and resources, pointing the way to a future without samples.

And fourth, we've continued to deliver new product and a number of exciting collaborations across channels. We launched a spring collection, which focused on youthful optimism in partnership with Hailey Bieber and Jaden Smith. Our collaboration with New Balance sold out everywhere within seconds of the product launch, including, Tmall and more. And consumers camped out virtually and lined up, in Harajuku, for the Levi's by GOLF WANG release, which sold out in minutes.

Our 2020 Pride collection, which we dropped exclusively on our app, exceeded expectations on conversion and average order value. And for summer, we've introduced cool, relaxed and easy summer pieces in soft new earth tones and '90s inspired denim finishes.

Our product continues to resonate with consumers during the shelter-in-place period on our broader digital footprint. We were recently selected by Amazon to be featured in their Big Style Sale at the end of June and saw our second biggest selling week on their platform. And our reversible facemasks became a #1 best seller on Amazon in mid-June.

Complex Magazine recently listed Levi's among its best brands of 2020 for our relevancy and for the creative freedom we grant in collaborations, like what we did earlier this year with industry-renowned Doc C (sic - Don C) on NBA all Stars and Tremaine Emory of Denim Tears.

And although our brand and balance sheet remain strong, the substantial revenue impact from the health crisis requires us to adjust our cost structure so we can continue to fuel high ROI investments that drive our business in digitization, brand building and other areas that are working for us, which will accelerate our rebound. That's why today, we announced the difficult decision to reduce our workforce by approximately 700 people, which represents about 15% of our global nonretail, nonmanufacturing headcount.

This will allow us to respond to the immediate business impact of COVID-19 and give us confidence in our cost structure during the potential extended recovery. This is by far the most difficult aspect of this situation made especially hard because we had been building such strong momentum before the pandemic hit. And many of our colleagues who are being impacted by this difficult but necessary reduction were critical to our success.

Finally, before I turn it over to Harmit, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the ongoing call to action in the U.S. and around the world for all of us to stand up and confront the reality of systemic racism. Our company has long stood for inclusivity and has a history of fighting for equality.

In just the last 5 years, LS&Co. and the Levi Strauss Foundation together have invested $37 million in organizations advancing social justice and equality in the United States. In June, we hosted a series of conversations with black leaders on our Instagram live, to elevate voices in the Black community.

We've taken important steps, but we know it is not nearly enough. Over the last few weeks, we've taken a hard look at ourselves and made a number of commitments to encourage more diversity at all levels of the company. I look forward to updating you on the progress on these commitments going forward. Harmit, over to you.


Harmit J. Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO [6]


Thanks, Chip. And welcome to everyone joining our call. I hope everyone is continuing to be safe and healthy. Before I discuss our financial performance, I would like to thank our teams around the world for the tremendous efforts in helping the company manage through the different crises, while remaining focused on how we will emerge stronger on the other side.

I've been very impressed and energized by how everyone has come together to understand and take swift actions to address current challenges and adapt to new ways of working while remaining guided by our values as we serve all our stakeholders. It's been an unprecedented quarter like no other that I've seen; however, I'm confident and optimist that we, as a company, will grow market share and improve our structural economics as we move through it because of the following factors.

We have great brands, products that consumers love and strong talent. We've been agile in responding to the impact of the pandemic on our business, as Chip described. We have a strong balance sheet and ample liquidity and responded quickly to address cash flows by reducing CapEx and costs and by taking steps to optimize working capital efficiency. And while we're cutting costs and capital spend, we are focused on driving structural improvements in our cost base to drive stronger EBIT margins and reallocating resources towards high ROI investments, such as automation, AI and digitization.

Now I'll share some color around our Q2 results. While everyone's comparisons to prior year have been substantially impacted by the economic fallout of the pandemic, our fiscal second quarter was comprised of March, April and May. This yielded a tougher full quarter comparison than most given stores, both ours, our franchisees and our customers were closed in almost -- in all markets for nearly 10 of the 13 weeks beginning in mid-March.

All told, we estimate a weighted average of less than 40% of our operational footprint was open for business in the quarter. With this backdrop in mind, we delivered net revenues of $498 million, a 62% decline from prior year. As we'd expect, most of the -- this revenue was booked in the first half of March. Once those had closed, April and May were light as markets only began to reopen in May. We opened about 1/3 of our doors progressively throughout May, most of which were in Europe and did so slowly and cautiously prioritizing consumer and employee safety.

As wholesale customers reopened, shipments were minimal as the vast majority of them were only beginning to work through the inventory they had received prior to the lockdown. The highlight for revenues was our own e-commerce business, which for the total company grew 25% for the quarter. Total company e-commerce was slightly down to prior year in March as consumers focused on stocking necessities as they prepared to shelter in place.

But in April, we saw a return to double-digit growth and this accelerated to 79% growth in May, a month in which our U.S. e-commerce growth hit triple digits. This -- the substantial e-commerce growth drove leverage on the investments we've been making in that channel, resulting in e-commerce being profitable for both the second quarter and year-to-date. Should trends continue, we expect our e-commerce business to be profitable for the full year ahead of expectations.

Turning to gross margin. Reported gross margin of 34% included COVID related charges of $87 million. Excluding these charges, adjusted gross margin was 51.5%, down just 180 basis points from prior year. Gross margin was bolstered by the benefit of the price increases we have taken which held even in this environment, demonstrating the value of our products to our fans. And adjusted gross margin for our direct-to-consumer business overall held strong and was also in line with prior year as promotions were not a significant driver in the quarter.

Wholesale margin declined by a few points, primarily reflecting higher proportion of discounted sales in Europe as they actively manage down inventory levels. Adjusted gross margin in the Americas was flat to last year, while Asia was up at China's higher gross margin, which held strong at flat to last year, comprised a higher share of Asia's revenues this quarter.

Turning to SG&A, which on a reported basis at $551 million included $88 million in COVID related charges. Excluding these, adjusted SG&A was $462 million, down more than $150 million from prior year, a 25% decline. Adjusted SG&A was down across the board, all regions, functions and categories of spend, primarily reflecting the cost reduction initiatives we swiftly instituted.

About 20% of adjusted SG&A is variable. [Ping] distribution and other expenses tied directly to revenue, and these were down in line with revenue decline. The remaining 80% is not directly driven by revenue and in traditional terms, is a fixed cost base. However, as I've said in the past, in a crisis, nothing is fixed and our actions to reduce these costs resulted in a more than 15% reduction. Specifically, to reduce selling expenses, we furloughed many of our hourly workers from our stores while they were closed and engaged with our landlords globally to renegotiate rent.

Given that the Levi's brand is a traffic driver and that we are one of the few companies that continue to open new stores, we are using this crisis to not only ensure that we get the best locations but also structure more favorable lease terms. Our efforts are focused on abatement of rent for the days stores are closed, relocation to better spots where desired and rent reductions on the remaining term given the expected major disruption of the real estate market.

In advertising, we cut spend in April and May that had been planned to drive traffic to physical stores, but retain and concentrated spend to stay connected to the consumer online. In administration, we cut executives, leaders and board members' compensation including the reversal of fiscal 2020 incentive accruals.

And in IT, we rebalanced our portfolio by cutting discretionary and nonurgent projects while accelerating our digital transformation to drive a better consumer and employee experience. We are also broadly maintaining our ERP rollout plan as we believe this will help digitize our processes.

Turning to adjusted EBIT. The substantial decrease in adjusted SG&A was not sufficient to offset the COVID impact to revenue. And accordingly, adjusted EBIT for the quarter was a loss of $206 million. Adjusted net loss was $192 million and adjusted diluted loss per share was $0.48.

Now let's move to the balance sheet and cash flows. First and foremost, our liquidity position remains very strong, $2 billion, which is higher than it was at the end of Q1. We executed a $500 million add-on to our 5% U.S. dollar bond due 2025. It's callable at a small premium, which is worth it for the flexibility. This bolsters our liquidity, allowing us to play defense should things turn worse or offense as we emerge on the other side.

We have previously drawn $300 million against our revolver. But with the incremental cash on hand from the bond raise, in addition to generating positive cash flow sooner than initially expected, we paid the revolver back in late June to reduce our interest burden. Independent from the bond raise, our working capital, cost reduction and CapEx actions in response to the crisis radically mitigated our cash burn, which totaled around $160 million for the entire quarter, reflecting the roughly 10 weeks stores were closed.

As stores have reopened, we are no longer burning cash, and June was positive from a cash flow perspective. Working capital efficiency has been a big part of this and I applaud our teams around the world for rising to the call to enhance liquidity.

We have aggressively pursued collections throughout the crisis. We have brought our payment terms in line with industry and market practices around the world, while ensuring that our direct vendors have access to supply of financing if needed. And most importantly, we took swift action on inventory early on as the magnitude of the crisis became clear.

Despite a drop of more than 60% in sales, quarter-end inventory dollars net of reserves are only up 10% year-over-year. Asia drove the bulk of the increase as inventories in the Americas was only up 5%, while Europe was up 13% to prior year. And overall inventory composition between core and seasonal is similar to where we were pre-COVID.

Our agility to quickly curb the inflow of inventory is part of the equation as we will be working through inventory for at least the balance of the year. Given the inventory overhang in the sector, we anticipate our sales of excess inventory in the back half of fiscal 2020 to pressure adjusted gross margin, which we expect will be lower than prior year, particularly in the third quarter.

We will sell in-season product wherever possible. And despite the majority of our inventory being co, we do not plan to pack and hold a material amount. As we move through the back half of 2020, we will strike a balance between revenues and gross margin. And to this end, we have the advantage of the ability to clear inventory through our network of outlets.

We have and will continue to invest in future growth via capital expenditures on stores, our omnichannel and other digital initiatives, AI and data analytics as well as the upgrade of our ERP. Our revised CapEx estimate for 2020 is now around $160 million, substantially lower than the $200 million we originally guided for 2020. We now expect that we'll open around 70 company-operated doors this year.

We have already opened 30 doors year-to-date, primarily internationally, and will continue to open doors selectively through the balance of the year. And most of the stores we are opening this year will be digitally enabled, transforming our stores from just a place to buy Levi's into an immersive omnichannel brand experience giving our consumers an authentic, compelling and consistent expression of the Levi's brand.

And under the umbrella of organic M&A, we have been busy since we last spoke. We have taken ownership of our business in Singapore and are converting that market from third-party to company operated, and we have taken back a handful of franchise doors in other markets into our store network. And we are pleased to announce that we have finalized the agreement to take back our U.S. wholesale men's tops license for knits and woven product in 2021.

Before starting the current trends we are seeing post quarter close, let me briefly describe the COVID-related charges we took this quarter. Impacting gross profit, we booked inventory reserves of $87 million. Impacting SG&A, we took a charge of $28 million for receivables due to the impact of COVID on our wholesale customers and recorded $60 million in store-related impairment.

We also took a restructuring charge of $67 million in the quarter, consisting of severance and related benefits for the employees we have announced today will be leaving the company in the coming months. This was a very difficult decision. But unfortunately, it was necessary to reduce our fixed cost base while reinvesting some of the savings in accelerating the digital transformation of the company so that we continue to expand adjusted EBIT margin as we emerge from this crisis. We anticipate this action will result in an annualized reduction of $100 million in compensation costs beginning in quarter 4.

As we exited the quarter and moved through June, we saw encouraging trend. As we speak to you today, about 90% of our stores are now open and almost 40% of the open stores are comping positively to prior year. The overall weekly productivity of our store fleet is improving sequentially. And in the final week of June, productivity approached 80%.

While performance differs depending on the market, stores that are normally heavily trafficked by tourists are down more than the others. Conversion is high as the revenue decline is lower than the traffic decline, showing that consumers are coming back with a high intent to buy.

Our e-commerce business continues to do really well, growing nearly 70% in the month of June, even as brick-and-mortar stores reopen. This is more than 3x the growth rate we were seeing pre-COVID, which speaks to the stickiness in consumer shopping trends Chip mentioned. And at wholesale, nearly all doors in most markets have reopened, and we're starting to get a few summer and fall orders.

Some market-specific color includes the following: in the Americas, 2/3 of the region stores are open with productivity around 70% and 1/3 of the doors comp positively in the final week of June. In Europe, nearly all our doors are open, with performance better among franchisees, outlets and stores located in smaller cities, and stores are moving towards last year's revenue level with 1/3 of doors comping positively to prior year, though it varies by market.

And in China, all our stores have reopened, and our company-operated store network comped positively in the final week of June. China remains a huge opportunity for us. Given these trends, which are better than our expectation, and absent the second wave, we're expecting revenue performance versus prior year to improve sequentially by quarter.

Having said this, looking ahead to the remainder of the year, it's still too early to speculate when the size of the apparel category will return to pre-COVID levels. Given the recent surge of COVID-19 cases in some parts of the U.S. and in international markets like India, there remains quite a bit of uncertainty on the pace of revenue recovery and resultant cash flows. And we do not expect revenues to return to pre-COVID levels until sometime in 2021.

Accordingly, we continue to suspend guidance and will not be paying a dividend in the third quarter. We will reassess dividend payments for the fourth quarter as the situation evolves. Either way, with our strategies, strong connection to the consumer and trifecta of brands, products and people, we believe we'll emerge with the larger share of the category at whatever size. Our digital business will be a bigger piece of the pie as will our brick-and-mortar store fleet.

And while COVID is accelerating wholesale disruption, a smaller wholesale footprint on the other side is likely a healthier one and we're continuing to expand our wholesale distribution. And as revenues do return, we are confident that the steps we are taking to sustainably reduce our costs and drive greater efficiencies in working capital will enable us to further expand adjusted EBIT margins and drive cash flows. By focusing on what we can control, it will help ensure that our growth algorithm is healthier and sustainable over the long term.

Before we take your questions, I'll turn it back to Chip for a look forward.


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [7]


Thanks, Harmit. And as we look to the future, I want to share some major themes we're seeing and why I'm confident that these play to our strengths and position us to capitalize in the post-COVID world.

First, the pandemic and subsequent economic crisis are causing changes in consumer preferences. Consumers want value and values, which does not necessarily mean consumers will trade down. The pandemic is convincing more and more people, especially young people, that it's better to buy fewer, more versatile, higher-quality products of value, items the consumer can imagine wearing for years like a trucker jacket before handing it down to their grandchildren.

I've long said that Levi's is the opposite of fast fashion. As consumers gravitate toward products that are well made, sustainable and built to last from season-to-season and year-to-year, Levi's will be at the top of their list.

Consumers want brands they know, love and trust, and this is our heritage, values that our company has been built on. And the days of conspicuous consumption are gone. It's all about conscious consumption. And because of this, sustainability is going mainstream, consumers are increasingly valuing sustainability which will be a primary focus of our marketing campaign this fall.

We continue to innovate with a focus on comfort, style and sustainable design practices. We're also introducing exciting innovations in sustainability, such as cottonized hemp denim as featured in our latest fashion fits, the high loose and the stay loose and well as truckers and denim shirts.

Consumers are increasingly moving towards casualization. And for the fall season, we've infused the casualization trend with style influences from the '80s and '90s, including looser, more relaxed silhouettes across bottoms and tops. And for those that are seeking a lower price point, our Signature and Denizen brands deliver great fits, fabrics and fashion for the price, making fashion available to everyone.

The second major theme we're seeing is that the consumer shopping behavior has been changed for good. And here too, we are well positioned to address the change in consumer attitudes about shopping in stores. With approximately 85% of our stores in the U.S. located in open air venues such as strips, outlets and off-mall, we expect these locations will be more preferred shopping venues as consumers consider health and safety.

These store locations also complement the execution of our rollout of buy online, pick up in-store initiatives, including curbside pickup and more consumers are increasingly allocating a larger share of their discretionary spend to online purchases. We expect these shifts in consumer shopping behaviors and the conveniences they've grown accustomed to will stick, and we're positioned to take full advantage.

And as a final theme, we expect the pandemic will fundamentally alter the competitive landscape, especially here in the U.S. Wholesale disruption and department store door closures will accelerate, and this creates an opportunity for us. We will be aggressive in pursuing incremental and diverse distribution opportunities with a focus on elevating Levi's, including in premium doors, and on expanding our distribution in the value channel, where we have significant opportunities to capture market share.

As doors close and malls close, we are confident we can remap distribution over time, both with the existing customers and new ones. There is substantial growth opportunity across all of our brands, categories and consumer segments to expand our head to toe lifestyle expression and win share of closet.

Elevating the Levi's brand and distribution remapping will also be addressed through the ongoing expansion of our company-operated store base. There remains plenty of white space, and we anticipate opening more than 100 smaller footprint mainline doors in the U.S. over the coming years.

In summary, we are confident that LS&Co. is well positioned to benefit from the shift in consumer behavior and changes in the retail landscape. We're pleased with the strong response to the numerous initiatives we've employed during the COVID crisis, and this gives us even greater confidence in our ability to capture the market opportunities that remain ahead. With that, we'll now take your questions.


Questions and Answers


Operator [1]


(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Bob Drbul with Guggenheim.


Robert Scott Drbul, Guggenheim Securities, LLC, Research Division - Senior MD [2]


I guess, the question that I have is for Harmit. On the $100 million cost reduction program, I don't know if you said this, but is it cash versus -- can you break down like the cash versus noncash? And will it stick in terms of just the permanent cost reductions that you see going forward? Can you just maybe elaborate a little bit more on the various cost cuts that you've made?


Harmit J. Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO [3]


Sure, Bob thanks for asking the question. As a reminder, the savings, we believe, will begin in quarter 4. To your question about cash and noncash, I would say cash would be about 2/3, noncash, which is long term incentives, stock, et cetera, is about 1/3. We're using this crisis to reshape the P&L structurally so that we squeeze costs that we have to and invest in areas where we need to.

So our focus is -- will enable us to get to the 12% plus goal of adjusted EBIT margin as and when revenues recover. We believe that our longer-term growth algorithm will be healthier and drive sustainable longer-term growth. Specifically, we believe that while we will invest in areas like brand building and digitization of the consumer experience, our recent actions will also improve longer-term profitability.

The other thing to say, Bob, on the cuts is we are cutting areas that are seeing a revenue drop. And as Chip said, these are largely corporate folks. We continue to invest in areas that will drive growth, which largely are focused around digitization, investing in AI and in other principles or disciplines that will accelerate the digitization of the company.


Operator [4]


Your next question comes from Matthew Boss with JPMorgan.


Matthew Robert Boss, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [5]


Great. Chip, maybe what's your view on overall demand for denim in the U.S. and Europe as we break down the 80% brick-and-mortar productivity and 70% e-commerce growth that you're seeing today? And Harmit, what's the magnitude of gross margin pressure that you're expecting in the third quarter relative to 180 basis points that we saw in the second quarter?


Harmit J. Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO [6]


Okay. Chip, why don't you go first and I'll take the second?


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [7]


So we've got -- the data that we have is best in the U.S., where we get data on a monthly basis. And the overall apparel category is down. But denim has maintained its share of apparel sales, and it's unchanged. If you just look at the 3-month period post-COVID versus the same 3-month period a year ago, that percentage hasn't changed. So we're not seeing a negative impact and also not seeing a huge positive impact.

I will say one of the trends that we have seen, particularly as we've started to emerge, our women's business continues to outperform, particularly in Europe, where it now is more than half of the business. And then the other thing I would say is, remember, we're more than denim. We also have tops and outerwear and a bunch of other categories. Our tops business was not as impacted as our bottoms business during this past quarter. So we haven't seen huge fundamental shifts in either direction.

The last thing I would say, Matt, is I'm really confident we're going to build share through this. There are a number of brands that have already declared bankruptcy. There are a lot of shared owners out there right now. And given our commitment to continue to invest in building the brand and emerging stronger, I'm confident we're going to grow share through this period of time.


Harmit J. Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO [8]


And to your question on gross margins, Matt, we closed the first half of the year with gross margins at 54.7% on an adjusted basis, is 70 basis points higher than a year ago, and that's despite the 180 basis point decline in quarter 2.

To your question about the second half of the year, I would say our effort is to progressively have cleaner inventory on the seasonal inventory side as we progress through the year. So we end the year with absolutely clean inventory. We already have -- if you look at our evergreen products, products that we could sell in the season or beyond, that's still around what it was in the pre-COVID level, a little over 70%.

So our expectation is that gross margin is probably in a slight pressure in quarter 3, but structurally, no major change to what I said a quarter ago. And as the direct-to-consumer business, as our e-commerce business continues to accelerate, that's accretive from a gross margin perspective. So while we probably end the year slightly down, structurally, we feel that once we have inventory clean or cleaner than what it is today, we are in a better spot.

The other thing we're doing on gross margin is we are scaling up F.L.X., which is accretive to gross margin. We are driving more productivity in our assortments. So that would tend to drive higher gross margins, and we continue to work with our vendors, and that tends to make a big difference. We've also not scaled back pricing that we took. And I think once we come out of the crisis, that will definitely help.


Operator [9]


Your next question comes from Omar Saad with Evercore ISI.


Omar Regis Saad, Evercore ISI Institutional Equities, Research Division - Senior MD and Head of Softlines, Luxury & Department Stores Team [10]


I wanted to dive in a little bit deeper on some of the digital growth and strength you're seeing? Differences across regions, are you seeing anything in the data there? Is it new customers, existing customers shopping more? Any category trends that you're noticing in digital?

And then also, are you -- have you been able to use the inventory in your stores to fulfill digital demand in the quarter, whether it's online orders that you ship to people's homes or buy online, pick up in-store, I'd love to see where you are on that curve.


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [11]


Yes. Why don't I take that? Omar, good to talk with you. So as we alluded to in the prepared remarks, our e-commerce business has really continued to accelerate. During the quarter that we reported in May, our e-commerce business was up 79%. It was up over 100%, more than double in the U.S. that month of May. And we've seen it continue into June. Our e-commerce business globally was up 70%-plus in June.

So I can't promise continued growth rates in the 70%-plus range forever as our stores continue to reopen, but we do expect that the pace of growth will be significantly higher than pre-COVID levels, especially as we continue to invest and accelerate the digitization of the consumer experience.

Just for perspective, our e-commerce business used to be about 5% of our total revenue. It's now tracking at 9%. June was 13%. On the question about who the shopper is? During Q2, 70% of our e-commerce shoppers in the U.S., this is U.S. data, 70% of the e-commerce shoppers were new to e-commerce in Q2. So we are picking up a lot of incremental new users. Obviously, during the quarter, they couldn't go to the store. But as I said, I really do think that this is going to be sticky.

The other, I guess, data point I can give you is, remember, we launched the app back in December. And the download rate of the app during Q2 was more than double what it was in Q1. And we're starting to see orders coming in through the app here in the U.S. as well.

The app is not just a way to transact in a simple, easy way to keep Levi's on your phone, it is also more experiential. As we said on the prepared remarks, we dropped our Pride collection exclusively on the app, and it still did really, really well. So we're trying to make it more experiential and we're linking our loyalty program to that.

Last, on your question about ship from store, I think we said it in the prepared remarks. But during the lockdown, when our stores were closed, we had the store managers going into the stores and fulfilling e-commerce orders. And about 30% of our orders in the U.S. during the month of May were fulfilled from our stores, by the store managers, and that was a great way to help us manage inventory.

We actually used AI to steer the orders to where we had the biggest opportunity to clear that specific inventory. And that's a capability that we've built, and we're going to continue to leverage that on a go-forward basis.


Operator [12]


Your next question comes from Jay Sole with UBS.


Jay Daniel Sole, UBS Investment Bank, Research Division - Executive Director and Equity Research Analyst of Softlines & Luxury [13]


Chip, can you just talk about what the flow of deliveries is like right now to your wholesale partners and maybe how it's differing in North America versus Europe? And maybe can you compare with what you're seeing now versus what it was like, say, a month ago?


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [14]


Yes. It's still -- as we said in the script, Jay, it's still relatively slow in terms of actual deliveries. They -- most of them have only had their stores open for a couple of weeks here in the U.S. We are starting to see orders starting to come through for late summer and fall. And so that is saying, we're seeing sell-through. We're also seeing replenishment orders come in right now from our wholesale customers here in the U.S. And I would say it's pretty consistent, both here and -- here in the U.S. as well as in Europe.


Operator [15]


Your next question comes from Paul Lejuez with Citigroup.


Paul Lawrence Lejuez, Citigroup Inc., Research Division - MD and Senior Analyst [16]


Curious if you could talk a little bit more about the department store closings that you're seeing out there. Maybe just based on the number of stores that have been announced thus far from some of your key partners, do you have a sense of what percent of your sales are going to -- have occurred through those doors? The percent that you really have to make up in other channels? And also, I think, you mentioned 100 new stores -- mainline stores, what was the timing on that?


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [17]


I'll take a shot at that. Harmit, feel free to pile on. I mean you all know exactly the same as we do in terms of what's been announced by our key department store and wholesale customers in terms of door closures and the rough timing around that. But we do expect we're going to see a couple of hundred wholesale door distribution points disappear over the next 12 months or so.

We have experience in dealing with this, going all the way back to the Mervyns days and then as Sears kind of was axing their doors. We have a lot of experience in remapping our business on kind of a store-by-store, case-by-case basis.

I don't have a specific percentage number to give you in terms of what percentage of our business is impacted by those door closures. Obviously, these guys are cutting from the least productive doors up. So the majority of our business is done -- it's classic 80-20 in wholesale. And so there will be some impact, obviously, from those closed doors. But we're pretty confident we can remap that distribution to other points.

On the 100 doors, we've talked about this before. Our mainline business here in the U.S. as a percentage of our total store base is relatively small. Think about it as in rough numbers, we have about 210 doors here in the U.S. and about 32 of those doors or so are mainline doors.

And we've got a model now for mainline that is very productive, delivers a really strong ROIC, that's based on great location and a relatively small footprint. Think of it as 3,000 to 4,000 square foot footprint. And we are in the process of opening some doors this year that matches that profile. And we see a significant opportunity to accelerate that as a way to continue to premiumize the Levi's brand, given the strength of the brand equity in this market, giving us more distribution points for our better and best Tier 2 and Tier 1 product. So we're on that.

The other thing I would say is the real estate opportunities are going to be pretty significant, I think, as we look at the commercial real estate market, with a number of brands that are going to have to close stores. We're working with our largest landlords, as Harmit said, both in terms of rent renegotiation, but also in terms of opportunities for better real estate and better locations.

And that gives us an opportunity to capitalize during this period of time where I think we're going to see the commercial real estate market get pounded pretty heavily, and that creates an opportunity for us to improve our footprint and better map to the consumer given the wholesale dynamic that we're going to face.

The last thing I would say is, there are still wholesale opportunities for us. And where it's either total white space or where we've got a smaller footprint today with that particular customer, where we have opportunities to continue to expand. And we're working all those. It's premature to say anything right now, but I expect we'll be able to talk about it as we get further down the road this year.


Operator [18]


Your next question comes from Heather Balsky with Bank of America.


Heather Nicole Balsky, BofA Merrill Lynch, Research Division - VP [19]


So first, I was just curious, what you're seeing in some of the U.S. markets like Texas and Arizona, where there are some surges in COVID cases and how their trends compare for the rest of the country? And then just a second question on your efforts to come out of this a more profitable company. Do you foresee SG&A savings beyond the $100 million that you just announced?


Harmit J. Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO [20]


Chip, you want to take the first and I'll take the second?


Charles Victor Bergh, Levi Strauss & Co. - President, CEO & Director [21]


Yes. Just on the stores, we have been -- I don't want to say scientific, but we consulted with an epidemiologist to put together very objective, data-based framework for us to decide when to open our stores. And that's why still less than 90% of our stores here in the U.S. are open. There are a number of stores that are still closed to this day because they don't kind of get a green mark on those criteria. And we're using those same criteria to evaluate whether we need to close any doors.

And I will say, at this point in time, we have not closed any other doors, any of the doors that we've reopened. However, there are about 40 doors right now that are in areas where the virus seems to be spiraling out of control. And we looked at it. We look at it 3 times a week; Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We made the decision yesterday not to close any stores.

But if this -- if the virus continues to spread in some of these hot spots, I think it's quite possible we may be closing, again, some stores on a temporary basis until the virus subsides in those areas. Hopefully, it doesn't come to that because that will suggest that the pandemic is continuing to get worse. But we're prepared to do it if we need to because we have, right from the very beginning, put the safety of our employees and our customers at front and center. And if we need to close doors, we will.


Harmit J. Singh, Levi Strauss & Co. - Executive VP & CFO [22]


On the second, Heather, about costs, we are focused on reducing costs both temporarily, but more important, structurally, so that the cost reductions are more permanent and our mindset as we emerge from the crisis with a lower percentage of SG&A to revenue as and when revenues recover to pre-COVID levels.

So beside the actions that we talked about in headcount, let me talk a little bit about variable costs and then fixed costs. So variable costs will follow revenues, though in a COVID world, where digitization is here to stay, we will drive productivity where we can. So if you assume travel was variable, I would say in a post-COVID world with more digitization, more leveraging of technology and work from home at some element, we think our travel costs will be lower as a percentage of revenue.

Other costs, we talked about comp reductions, but things like incentive reversals and IT deferrals, those are temporary. On a fixed cost basis, the other thing that we talked about is our rents. And we think because we are opening stores, we think because we are a traffic driver and bring traffic in, we are looking at structuring our rentals or our leases that we currently have more favorably over the next few years.

And the new stores that we're adding, we are getting substantial breaks on rentals that existed in the pre-COVID days. So we think structurally, as revenues come back, that's accretive to EBIT margins. And then e-commerce, which is a drain on profitability is now making money. And as that accelerates, that also drives profitability longer term.


Operator [23]


Your next question comes from Carla Casella with JPMorgan.


Carla Casella, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Research Division - MD & Senior Analyst [24]


You talked a little bit about the department stores and some of your retail customers. Did you give the number of your retail or percentage of your customer, I guess, your wholesale customer doors that are still closed? Or any kind of a tracking of how the ones that are opening are performing versus pre-COVID levels?