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NEW YORK, Mar 26, 2003/ — The weak economies in the U.S. and Europe coupled with slow retail environments took its toll on giant jeans manufacturer Levi Strauss.

In a financial report released yesterday, the company reported a decline of 6% for the first quarter of 2003, from $935 million during the same period last year to $875 million this year.

They were helped out a bit by the strong dollar during the first quarter. Had currency rates remained constant at 2002 levels, net sales would have declined approximately 11 percent for the period.

According to Phil Marineau, Levi Strauss & Co. chief executive officer, the company was expecting that the tough retail environment will affect sales, but the first quarter was tougher than they predicted.

“The good news is our top U.S. customers tell us that our brands are outperforming their jeans and casual pants categories. Our inventory levels at retail are also in good shape. Additionally, our Asia Pacific region continues to buck the economic trends, with six consecutive quarters of constant-currency sales growth. Most importantly, we still expect to grow the company this year,” he added.

The financial reports might be discouraging, but there are several silver linings on the cloud hovering over Levi’s.

First is the newly introduced Levi’s® Type 1™ jeans wherein the initial consumer response worldwide is very positive.

The company is also following up on the success of Dockers® Go Khaki™ with Stain Defender™ by introducing shorts, women’s pants and additional styles of men’s pants, all featuring stain-repellent performance.

Additionally, the company is ready to introduce the new Levi Strauss Signature™ brand in Wal-Mart this summer in the United States.