Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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L.L. Bean plans to dramatically expand its bootprint

March 12, 2015

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For decades, L.L. Bean was known for two things: its catalog and its iconic store in Freeport, Maine. Raise your hand if you planned a road trip there at all hours of day or night, to take home Bean Boots, a dog bed or a parka.

But since 2000, L.L. Bean’s reach has grown beyond Freeport, to 26 stores, including one at the Mall of America near Minneapolis. Now, the Maine outfitter is really going to expand its bootprint.

Bean, which turned 100 in 2012, will more than triple its stores by 2020, hoping to have at least 100 around the United States, the Bangor Daily News reports.

The new stores were announced to employees on Wednesday in a memo from CEO Chris McCormick, who also said he planned to retire in 2016. The company is conducting a search for a new CEO of the company founded 103 years ago by Leon Leonwood Bean.

It plans to push even farther west than its current outpost in Colorado, and is looking at the West Coast, potentially 2,500 miles or more from its home base.

In an email, Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem declined to be more specific. “At this point, everything is on the table and nothing is off,” she told BusinessJournalism.org. “We are particularly looking for the ‘right location,’ which is a bit difficult to define, but we’ll know it when we see it.”

Bean has seen a surge in popularity this past year for its Bean Boots, which are produced in Maine (and are officially known as the Maine Hunting Shoe). Sales rose to 450,000 in 2014, from 400,000 the year before. Some analysts think it’s because hipsters have embraced the practical footwear. Others say tough winters have boosted sales of the boots.

Bean has four stores in Maine and 20 elsewhere, each with 80 to 130 full and part time employees. This year, its 5,300 employees are getting a 5 percent bonus, although Bean has said it plans to close its call center in Bangor in 2016.

So, as shopping malls fade, well-known brands like Bean are scouting for more locations, counting on loyal customers to support their brick and mortar operations.

STORY IDEAS

L.L. Bean company website

The Town of Freeport

Bean Boots on Pinterest

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