Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh doesn’t seem to be interested in the business of 110 million American gun owners.
A few weeks after a deeply divisive election campaign might not seem like the most opportune time for a retailer to step into that hottest of debates in America: gun rights.
But the tense political climate hasn’t stopped Levi Strauss & Co from asking customers to refrain from bringing guns into its U.S. stores even when local law allows them to.
Levi Strauss Chief Executive Chip Bergh made the request in an open letter to customers posted on LinkedIn on Wednesday, 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 told Fortune in an exclusive 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 a Levi’s store in Commerce, Georgia, sustaining a non-life threatening injury. What’s more, Bergh says 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 vegan and 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.
Actually, Chip, those of us who concealed carry handguns inside the waistband—which is a substantial portion of the 14+ million Americans who choose to carry a concealed weapon—really do need our holstered guns, mag pouches, and other EDC (everyday carry) gear if we’re going to make sure that our clothing is sized correctly and conceals our concealed handguns as we desire.
It’s really nice that you were once a soldier and I thank you for your service, Mr. Bergh. I even understand that you’re sensitive to the concerns of some of your employees. The correct answer to fear, of course, is education, and you’ve instead chosen to validate their fears.
That’s your choice to make, of course.
Just remember that your customers have choices, too.