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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 January, 2004, 22:28 GMT
Ailing Levi closes last US plant
Levi's San Antonio plant
Levi's San Antonio plants are the last in a proud tradition
Iconic clothing firm Levi Strauss has finally departed the US, with the closure of its last American plants.

The closing of two San Antonio factories marks the end of 150 years of making jeans and other items in the US.

The decision to leave the US, taken last year, is part of Levi's drastic attempt to slash costs in the face of slumping demand for its core products.

The company is farming out all its production to contractors, after closing three Canadian plants in 2004.

Selling down

San Francisco-based Levi's has endured seven straight years of declining sales.

In 1996, at the peak of its global success, it recorded revenues of $7.1bn (3.9bn); in 2002, that figure fell to $4.1bn, and the 2003 figure is predicted to be lower still.

Fashion has swung away from Levi's traditional style of jeans, and the company's repeated attempts to reinvent its image have fallen flat.

At the same time, it has been slow to follow the contract-manufacturing trend set by rivals such as Nike during the 1980s and 1990s.

Getting small

The company has seen its global workforce shrink from more than 37,000 in 1996 to about 12,000 this year.

In the 1980s, the firm had 63 US plants.

Over half its staff are still in the US, a far higher proportion than is typical among radically globalised multinationals.

Its American workers earned up to $12 an hour for factory-floor jobs, some 10 times more than their counterparts in many developing economies.

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