Recently Levi-Strauss CEO Chip Bergh made a request in an open letter to customers posted on LinkedIn stating that firearms should not be on the premises of his stores. Bergh stated that he was aware of the potential to anger many customers, and is seeking to reassure them by saying the move is all about safety and not a political statement.
“It’s not an anti-Second Amendment thing,” Bergh stated in an interview. The denim apparel maker stopped short of issuing an outright ban on firearms.
Bergh’s post comes just a few weeks after a customer carrying a handgun accidentally shot himself inside of a Levi’s store in Commerce, Georgia. The customer suffered an injury, but it was not life threatening injury. Bergh also added that a number of store workers have expressed concern as more customers have brought their weapons into Levi’s stores.
“You don’t need a gun to try on a pair of jeans and it’s really out of respect for the safety of our employees and consumers shopping in our stores,” says the 59-year-old former U.S. Army captain. Bergh, who is not a gun owner, noted with pride that he has fired weapons countless times and surmised he could still clean a gun blindfolded as he could in his military days.
In the open letter, Bergh notes that Levi’s has locations in a number of cities that have seen mass violence in the last year.
“With stores in Paris, Nice, and Orlando, and the company’s European headquarters in Brussels, I’ve thought more about safety in the past year than in the previous three decades of my career because of how ‘close to home’ so many incidents with guns have come to impacting people working for this company,” he wrote.
For retailers and restaurants, taking any stand on the hot-button issue of gun control is fraught with risk: they can easily offend a big part of their clientele, but at the same time, the sight of rifle-toting men can unnerve other customers. And apart from race, there is perhaps no debate more fractious in the U.S. than the one surrounding gun control.
Starbucks learned that in 2013 when it requested, following a round of mass shootings, that customers visiting its stores keep their guns at home or in their car. The request was met with boycott threats from both sides of the debate.
Bergh says he consulted Starbucks as he crafted his message, and concluded that most boycott threats around this topic ultimately blow over.
Bergh recognizes the potential hazards, he said. “I’m not naive enough to expect that nothing will come of this. We are standing up for something we think is right,” he says.
Similarly to Starbucks’ approach, the request, made in 2013 by CEO Howard Schultz in the form of an open letter, is just that: a request. Bergh says he doesn’t want to put store workers in a position of having to enforce any rule, lest they confront armed customers, something he says would defeat the purpose of the request.
“The way to do this is with respect for gun owners,” Bergh says.Click Here For Other Businesses That Prohibit Guns