L.L.Bean

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Coordinates: 43°50′58″N 70°6′32″W? / ?43.84944°N 70.10889°W? / 43.84944; -70.10889

L.L. Bean, Inc.
Type Private
Industry Retail
Founded 1912 (1912)
Founder(s) Leon Leonwood Bean
Headquarters 15 Casco Street
Freeport, Maine,
United States
Number of locations 115 stores (2011)
Area served Worldwide
Key people Leon Gorman
(Chairman)
Christopher McCormick
(President and CEO)
Products Clothing and outdoor equipment
Revenue US$ 1.44 billion (FY 2010)
Employees 4,600 (2010)
Website www.llbean.com

L.L. Bean, Inc., branded as L.L.Bean, is a privately held mail-order, online and retail company based in Freeport, Maine, United States, specializing in clothing and outdoor recreation equipment. Its annual sales were USD 1.78 billion in 2006.

Company history

The company L.L.Bean was founded in 1912 by its namesake, avid hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean in Greenwood, Maine. Bean had developed a waterproof boot (a combination of lightweight leather uppers and rubber bottoms) that he sold to hunters. He obtained a list of nonresident Maine hunting license holders, prepared a descriptive mail order circular, set up a shop in his brother's basement in Freeport, Maine, and started a nationwide mail order business. By 1912, he was selling the "Bean Boot", or Maine Hunting Shoe, through a four-page mail-order catalog, and the boot remains a staple of the company's outdoor image. Defects in the initial design led to 90% of the original production run being returned: Bean made good on his money-back guarantee, corrected the design, and continued selling them. Leon L. Bean died on February 5, 1967, in Pompano Beach, Florida. He is buried in Freeport's Webster Cemetery. The company passed into the directorship of Bean's grandson, Leon Gorman, from that time until 2001, when Gorman decided to take the position of Chairman, leaving the position of CEO to Christopher McCormick, the first non-family member to assume the title.

Product line

Since its conception, the company has branched out not only to variations on its boots but to other outdoor equipment such as backpacks and tents, as well as producing a full line of clothing, which is now its mainstay.

Although thought of as a folksy "down Maine" company, virtually all of the clothing, and the vast majority of other products, are now imported. The days of watching moccasins being made are long gone.

In 2000, L.L.Bean formed a contract with Subaru, making L.L.Bean the official outfitter of Subaru, spawning an "L.L.Bean edition" Subaru Outback and Forester for the USA market. The L.L.Bean trim levels on American Subaru vehicles are the top-spec versions, with leather and wood trimmed interiors and all available options offered as standard equipment. This relationship with Subaru ended June 28, 2008.

In 2010, L.L. Bean established a more stylish sub-brand known as L.L. Bean Signature. Designed by Alex Carleton, the Signature line is a modern interpretation of L.L. Bean classics featuring a more modern fit.

Old store

The original Freeport store had the appearance of an antique factory, with the business on the third floor, reached only by climbing a long outdoor flight of stairs. Offices were on the second floor, where mail orders were also filled. There was a mail chute leading to the first floor post office. L.L.'s brother was the post master. While there, customers or tourists could watch hand sewing of moccasins and repairs being made to the original hunting boots, which apparently had a lifetime guarantee. For many years, the hallway of the staircase was a bulletin board messaging service used by hunters "from away" to advise their fellow hunters of information about their arrival, needs, and wants for the camp. Fellow hunters would have a niche in the stairway where their friends would put notes, and the custom lasted many years. The new showrooms removed the old, and the store is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is now a "campus" layout with different departments in separate buildings.

Branches

Along with a number of retail and outlet ("factory") stores, the company maintains its flagship store on Main Street in Freeport. This branch, originally opened in 1917, has been open 24 hours a day since 1951, with the exception of two Sundays in 1962 when Maine changed its blue laws; a town vote reinstated the store's open-door policy. The flagship also closed to honor the death of President Kennedy, as well as that of Bean himself.

L.L. Bean opened its first outlet store in North Conway, NH in 1988. This L.L. Bean outlet moved to a smaller, one-story store in 2008, citing efficiency issues with the original store (which was two stories and considerably larger).

L.L.Bean has stores as far away as Tokyo, as well as a large presence through its mail-order and online catalogs.

Retail and outlet stores

  • United States
    • Connecticut: South Windsor; outlet store: Orange
    • Illinois: South Barrington and Skokie (Old Orchard Mall)
    • Maine: Freeport (two stores open 24 hours/day: Retail Store with attached Hunting & Fishing Store; Bike, Boat & Ski); outlet stores: Freeport, Ellsworth, Bangor
    • Maryland: Columbia; outlet stores:Queenstown
    • Massachusetts: Burlington, Mansfield, Dedham; outlet stores: Wareham
    • New Hampshire: West Lebanon; outlet stores: Concord, Manchester, Nashua, North Conway
    • New Jersey: Marlton, Paramus
    • New York: Albany, Victor (Rochester Metro), Yonkers; outlet store: Fayetteville
    • Pennsylvania: Upper Saucon Township, Pittsburgh Ross Park Mall (opened November 21, 2009), King of Prussia Mall
    • Virginia: McLean; outlet store: Williamsburg
  • Japan
    • Aichi Prefecture: Nagoya
    • Hyogo Prefecture: Nishinomiya, Kobe
    • Kanagawa Prefecture: Yokohama
    • Kyoto Prefecture: Kyoto
    • Nagano Prefecture: Karuizawa
    • Niigata
    • Osaka
    • Shizuoka Prefecture: Gotemba
    • Tokyo

Outdoor Discovery Schools

L.L.Bean has education programs connected to many of its retail outlets to support the outdoor interests of its customers. Customers can participate in a number of outdoor activities without prior arrangement by signing up in the store on the day of their visit and paying a small fee. Some of the sponsored activities include archery, clay shooting, fly casting, and sea kayaking. More advanced classes are conducted as well, but generally must be reserved in advance. The Freeport location offers Walk-On Adventures for $20 in fly casting, archery,sporting clays, and kayaking from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are available December to March. All of the other retail stores (there are now 13 total outside of Maine from Chicago to the Mid-Atlantic region) offer fly casting and kayaking.

The Outdoor Discovery Schools, in addition to beginner to advanced courses in shooting, fishing, and kayaking, offers weekend adventure trips and daily guided kayak tours in Maine as well.

Competitors

The major competitors for its outdoor gear line include Columbia Sportswear, Eddie Bauer, Helly Hansen, North Face, Orvis, Timberland and many other sporting goods retailers in the United States.

L.L.Bean's clothing line faces a rather different set of competitors. There, they compete with staples such as J.Crew, Lands' End, Barbour, Orvis, Brooks Brothers, Gant, Lacoste, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, Original Penguin, Patagonia and many others.

In popular culture

  • Broadway musicals Rent (1995) and Grey Gardens (2006) both reference L.L. Bean in song lyrics. In Rent it can be heard in the song "Christmas Bells" and "The Revolutionary Costume for Today" from Grey Gardens.
  • The Official Preppy Handbook, an ironic description of upper-class and upper-middle-class life in America, describes L.L. Bean as "nothing less than Prep mecca."
  • Author Hunter S. Thompson referred to wearing L.L. Bean shorts in a number of his works, most notably during the "Wave Speech" featured in chapter 8 of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
  • In the movie Beetlejuice, the character Otho sarcastically says, "Deliver me from L.L. Bean", when first looking upon the office in the Maitland's house. It was decorated in a fashion consistent with L.L. Bean's catalogs.
  • In episode 0821 of the cult comedy series Mystery Science Theater 3000, Crow, while watching the movie Time Chasers (a.k.a. Tangents), makes a joking reference to "the L.L. Bean gang" as two characters run across the screen in rather rugged outdoor clothing.
  • The 1990 Paul Rudnick novel, I'll Take It was a humorous tale of a Long Island mother taking some of her children on a Fall shopping trip through New England with L.L. Bean being the final destination. As the plot unfolds, the mother divulges to her son that she is actually planning to rob L.L. Bean in order to update her and her husband's furniture in their retirement.
  • The satire website The Onion, parodied L.L. Bean's reputation as a white "preppie" brand with a video that claims L.L. Bean had been boycotted by the African-American community for close to 80 years. The report focused on confusion over the fact that, while there was no particular reason for the boycott, every African American interviewed echoed the sentiment that they "wouldn't be caught dead in" anything from the catalog.

    • In season 2, episode 20 of Boy Meets World, L.L. Bean is mentioned as having stylish clothing by Joey and Frankie.
    • In The Simpsons episode titled "Scenes From the Class Struggle In Springfield", one of the country club ladies mentioned L.L. Bean.
    • In season 1, episode 17 - Secrets and Lays - of Will & Grace, Campbell walks out of the cabin and Grace remarks " Why can't I order that from the L.L. Bean catalog?"
    • In season 1, episode 7 of Chuck, Ellie comments how Devon said that "L.L. Bean must have stolen the color from my eyes so it really belonged to me."
    • The Muppet series Bear in the Big Blue House satirized L.L. Bean by having the main character Bear order a clock out of a catalog called "L.L. Bear."
    • In the Home Improvement episode," A Taylor Runs Through It", Tim says to Al, "Look, it's Al Al Bean"
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