Why Target and Levi’s are deepening their partnership with a designer collaboration

January 26, 2021, 7:00 PM UTC

For years, Levi Strauss & Co’s presence at Target stores was limited to its inexpensive Denizen line of jeans. Then last year, as many department stores continued to falter, the two companies expanded that to include Levi’s signature Red Tab jeans and store-in-stores at dozens of locations.

Now, the companies are going further, offering a limited-time designer collaboration focused on home goods like dog beds made with Levi’s classic denim, and ottomans—merchandise that Levi’s has never made—as well as some clothing like pajamas and its trucker jacket.

The collection of 100 items, on sale on February 28 until supplies run out, is a way to heighten awareness and create buzz around the fact that Target will soon be selling more Levi’s merchandise than before and at more stores. (Levi’s will have full fledged shop-in-shops at 500 Target stores by year-end, up from 140 initially, long after the home goods collection is gone.)

The deeper links with Levi’s are a continuation of years-long efforts by Target to bring in more outside national brands and retailers into its stores to attract more customers. In 2015, CVS/pharmacy took over Target’s pharmacies, Target started opening Disney stores in 2019, and a few months ago, it announced that Ulta Beauty would open shops inside 100 of its stores to start with.

“These partnerships offer us an opportunity to reach an extended audience,” Target CEO Brian Cornell told Fortune in an interview.

And Target’s stellar results this year have made it an ever more attractive partner for brands. In November and December, the chain’s comparable sales rose 17.2%, continuing its white-hot streak of growth since the pandemic began. More crucially, that growth was accompanied by a jump in store visits, something for which companies like Levi’s are hungry.

Levi Strauss could use the lift. While the jeansmaker is prioritizing efforts to build up its own stores and e-commerce, the company still needs retail customers to a certain degree: Its wholesale business in North America is an important component of revenue and wholesale partners like Macy’s and J.C. Penney have shriveled for years.

What’s more, Target has become an e-commerce juggernaut, while Levi Strauss gets a smaller percentage of his business online. (The limited time collection will be available on Target’s website only, and available for curbside pickup and in-store retrieval to accommodate shoppers anxious about going into stores.)

Over the years, Target built its allure for shoppers in large part thanks to designer collaborations including temporary collections with Missoni, Marimekko, Lilly Pulitzer, Vineyard Vines and Hunter, typically offering a limited assortment of less expensive items under those high end brands. What makes the Levi’s arrangement unusual is that Target already carries Levi’s.

Target and Levi Strauss will offer a limited-edition of home goods items starting at the end of February.
Courtesy of Target

“Part of what’s got the brand (Levi Strauss) back on track is putting the brand at the center of culture and innovation,” Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh told Fortune in his joint interview with Cornell.

Their limited-time collaboration includes items like tableware and settings, quilts, pillows, pajamas, and other items. Prices will range between $3 and $150, though most will be below $25. And the companies said the items will hold various sustainability certifications.

“We’ve solidified Target as a top retail destination,” said Cornell. And that is what has made this partnership attractive, and perhaps essential for Levi’s.

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