L.L. Bean Broadens Wholesale Business, Plans Four Store Openings

L.L. Bean Broadens Wholesale Business, Plans Four Store Openings

While some major retailers are regrouping by shuttering select locations and laying off workers, L.L. Bean is building its distribution through key wholesale accounts — Dillard’s and Moosejaw and 10 independent ones in Southeastern states. The company will also open four freestanding stores and launch a French-language e-commerce site geared for Canadian shoppers.

The enhanced omnichannel strategy is one that the Maine-based company has been adopting in recent years. Once the new initiatives are rolled out, the outdoor-loving brand will have its products in 70-plus additional outposts, as well as through its online platforms.

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Started in 1912 as a mail-order catalogue by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company has evolved into an e-commerce and brick-and-mortar business. The founder’s great grandson Shawn Gorman serves as executive chairman.

Online shoppers in more than 150 countries can buy L.L. Bean apparel, accessories, footwear, sporting goods and other attire via its e-commerce. They can also visit more than 90 freestanding stores. In addition, the company recently updated its fulfillment capacity so that customers have access to all available inventory, in order to allow them to purchase, pick up and ship to or from any L.L. Bean point of purchase.

In the next two months, L.L. Bean will unveil two stores in Canada’s Montreal region and two in the U.S. The first one — an 18,000-square-foot space — will debut in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Quebec on Aug. 25. Shortly after Labor Day, the company will start welcoming shoppers to a Hanover, Massachusetts, location on Sept. 8. That will be followed by the unveiling of a 11,500-square-foot outpost in Boisbriand, Quebec on Sept. 29. The fourth store is slated for Oct. 6 in Peabody, Massachusetts. The French-friendly e-commerce site’s introduction will be in line with the two new Canadian stores.

Plans for any store openings in 2024 have not yet been revealed, according to a company spokesman. L.L.Bean currently has 56 stores in the U.S and 25 stores in Japan, as well as 13 licensed retail locations in Canada that are operated by Ontario-based Jaytex Group.

In March, the 110-year-old company reported fiscal 2022 net revenues of $1.8 billion — a 1 percent decline compared to fiscal year 2021. There had been record-breaking sales for the company in 2021, which rose 14 percent. But the company held onto recent gains to yield its second-strongest revenue performance in its history.

L.L. Bean remains committed to its home state, too, having celebrated the official opening of its $110 million 390,000-square-foot headquarters in Freeport in June. In addition, a $50 million project is underway to renovate its flagship there and to  reimagine its retail campus. Expansion of the Discovery Park, more community engagement offerings, immersive experiences, a more inviting Main Street entrance, new dining options, and an enhanced fresh water pond with salmon and trout are part of that effort.

The company, which relied largely on repeat catalogue customers for decades as its base, has been trying to make inroads with Millennials and Gen-Z consumers through occasional collaborations, such as ones with fashion designer Todd Snyder. Interest in its classic tote bag went viral on TikTok, thanks in part to ironic monograms that caught on with influencers and urbanites more than a year ago. To freshen up the company’s spring catalogue, artist Sebastian Blanck was recruited to provide the cover.

In recent months the company has invested in top-performing categories such as active and rugged, and has expanded its inclusive sizing and adopted a one-price model for all apparel. The bolstered multichannel is aimed at catering to consumers — including new ones — wherever they might be, according to L.L. Bean president and chief executive officer Stephen Smith. The new initiatives abide by the company’s M.O. of “enabling people to experience the restorative power of being outside, and will ensure we’re able to fulfill that purpose for years to come,” he said.

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