With L.L. Bean, you can tame the great outdoors -- or just look as if you could. The century-old outdoor apparel and gear maker mails more than 200 million catalogs per year. L.L. Bean's library includes about 10 specialty catalogs offering products in categories such as children's clothing, fly-fishing, outerwear, sportswear, housewares, footwear, camping and hiking gear, and the Maine hunting boot upon which the company was built. L.L. Bean also runs a growing network of retail stores in the northeastern US and Illinois, as well as in China and Japan. It also sells online through English- and Japanese-language websites. L.L. Bean was founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean and is controlled by his descendants.
The outdoor retailer primarily sells its goods via catalog or online. Notably, internet orders overtook catalog orders for the first time in 2009. The company also has a growing number of retail stores and outlets in the US and Asia.
Beyond merchandise, L.L. Bean encourages outdoor activities for adults and kids through its Outdoor Discovery School, which grew by 30% in 2014 alone to serve some 130,000 participants. The company also offers free clinics, speakers, and special outing opportunities through its retail stores.
L.L. Bean's flagship store in Freeport, Maine (known by locals as "the Bean") attracts some 3 million visitors annually and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
From its home base in Maine, the company mails its catalogs to more than 170 countries. It also operates more than 30 retail and outlet stores in roughly a dozen US states (mostly in the Northeast), and nearly 20 stores in Japan. After entering China in 2008, Bean's store count has grown to more than 50 stores there.
Sales and Marketing
L.L. Bean markets its products directly or through B2B sales channels. The company markets its products either through its website, or through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, and Instagram. In 2013, the company reported that it received over 10.6 million customer contacts, with as much as 128,000 contacts received in a single day.
The company's fulfillment centers have the capacity to hold more than 10 million units of product and process an average of 50,000 customer orders per day. In 2013, the company shipped more than 15 million packages, including 1 million on its busiest week.
Bean rang up 3% more sales in fiscal 2014 (ended February), posting $1.61 billion in revenue for the year. The company reported a 7% jump in online sales as its client base continued its migration to online and mobile. It also reported that its L.L. Bean Boot line enjoyed higher demand, with 450,000 pairs produced during the year.
From its humble start of selling waterproof hunting boots, L.L. Bean has built a direct-selling empire. Over the past few years, the century-old company has diversified by expanding its online presence, by expanding its retail stores geographically, and by opening specialized stores, including home stores, and bike, boat and ski stores, and outlet stores.
In the US, L.L. Bean has been growing the number of retail and outlet stores to boost sales in recent years. In 2014, for example, the company opened three new locations and expanded its reach into Colorado and two new states (Vermont and Minnesota).
To much success, L.L. Bean has also continued the social media push it started back in 2008 to increase its online sales. In 2014, boasting marketing campaigns on every major social media channel from Twitter to Pintrest, L.L. Bean managed to grow its online sales by 7% in 2014 and boost its overall revenue by 3%.
To better compete with Amazon.com and other online rivals, L.L. Bean reintroduced (in 2011) free shipping for all US and Canadian orders with no minimum purchase. Additionally, L.L. Bean's famous customer service is exemplified by its liberal return policies and perpetual replacement of the rubber soles of its Maine Hunting Shoe. The company also offers seminars and events on such topics as fly fishing, sea kayaking, and other outdoor pursuits.