Levi's drops its pants (from its sites)

Levi Strauss is backing out of running its own e-commerce operation, announcing that it will concentrate on bricks and mortar and leave online sales to retail partners.

Levi Strauss may be losing market share to hipper jeans makers like Tommy Hilfiger and The Gap, but the 146-year-old apparel company is ahead of the fashion curve on at least one count: It must be one of the first to abandon the digging fields of the e-commerce Gold Rush. The company said Friday that after Christmas, it would take the shopping cart off its site and leave sales to its retail partners like Macy's and JCPenney - who doubtless believed that those sales belonged with them all along.

A Reuters story on the San Jose Mercury News Web site quoted company spokesman Jeff Beckman saying the company would focus on "traditional 'brick-and-mortar' stores."

Beckman told the Associated Press that although sales on Levi's Web site and at http://www.dockers.com had been "strong," the costs were high. "Right now the cost of running a world-class e-commerce business is unaffordable considering our competing priorities." It doesn't sound like sales were any too strong.

The shift away from online sales comes just a month after the blue-jeans maker hired Philip Marineau, formerly of PepsiCo, as its new CEO. Marineau's ascension marks only the second time someone unrelated to founder Levi Strauss has been asked to lead the company.

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