"New England is quite as large a lump of earth as my heart can really take in." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Poll: Is L.L. Bean on the right track?

In 2001, the owners of L.L. Bean made Christopher McCormick the CEO of L.L. Bean when Leon Gorman stepped down from his daily duties. This post-Gorman era brought a lot of changes to L.L. Bean, including the launching of the L.L. Bean Signature line.

Now, after a decade of McCormick control, here is a question.

* Is L.L. Bean on the right track?

** Update** The poll is closed.  Of 1424 readers who voted, 1355 (95%) believed L.L. Bean is currently on the wrong track.

It is worth noting that I have certainly been critical of L.L. Bean's current direction. And perhaps because of that, I have received comments and emails that have also been critical of L.L Bean.

For example:

"Although not a New Englander, I am a practical person and have sadly watched the growth of shoddy merchandise and foolish style. Bean's is just one of many retailers that I no longer trust for quality and dependability. "

"Bean's has frustrated me for years for several reasons, but mainly for the reason you write about-they change what is good and has served many so well for so long. It's too bad, and when I think about how so much used to be manufactured in Maine (Bean's is just up the road from us), their shoes and other goods are now made in China instead."

"My dad has many Bean shirts from 20-30 years ago that still look just as good as the day he bought them but the ones they sell now are terribly lower in durability and quality. "

"What has become of my beloved LL Bean? I noticed that in the past year I have returned all items ordered except a chamois shirt and a classic tote bag. I've been ordering for 50 years ... where to turn?"

"Where in the world can I get good khaki pants these days? One that fit near the waist, traditional? I was raised on LL Bean and forsaken."

"The women's offerings have too many gaudy, tight, flashy items, if you ask me"

"I wrote a balanced, rational, review, and it was not posted. I'm disturbed by what seems to be artificial inflation of the overall 'rating' by leaving out reviews which focus on construction flaws."

"I'm enough of a cockeyed optimist to believe that if you keep explaining to LL Bean where they are breaking our collective heart, they might stop doing it."

"With the introduction of L.L. Bean Signature, I feel like I barely know L.L. Bean anymore. I am constantly disappointed when I head to Freeport and see the catalog items in person - quality is way down and the items have been changed."

"It's so frustrating. L.L. Bean seems to think that women don't want classic styles, fabric, and colors. They did away with the women's flannel shirts, only to bring back a VERY cheap version in a more fitted style. I looked at the fabric in the Freeport store, and it was thin and awful. I actually went on a rant to my husband while in the store."

But I may simply be a convenient venting site. So in the interest of fairness, I wanted to open up the question to anyone who cares.
  • Is there a silent majority who is appreciating where L.L. Bean is going? Do you believe L.L. Bean is on the right track (and they just need to continue to make incremental calibrations)?
  • Or are they not on the right track, and would you advise the leaders of L.L. Bean to change their current direction?
Finally, if there was one thing you wanted to tell the leaders of L.L. Bean, what would it be?

** Update: I was just sent this link to this article about the team behind L.L. Bean's Signature. **