Thursday, February 9, 2017

Portland Press Herald Article on L.L. Bean: "We haven’t grown for a number of years."


Today's article <http://www.pressherald.com/?p=1150977> in the current Portland Press Herald on L.L. Bean's benefits program includes the following quotes:
L.L. Bean is offering voluntary early retirement bonuses to about 900 employees with the goal of shedding 10 percent of its U.S. workforce in order to free up cash to invest in expansion and automation....
The changes are designed to end the company’s recent period of stagnation, L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith said. “We haven’t grown for a number of years, and we need to get back into the growth that we saw in the ‘80s and the ‘90s...”
This community showed some prescience back in 2011 <http://www.saltwaternewengland.com/2011/08/poll-is-ll-bean-on-right-track.html>.

35 comments:

  1. Perhaps abandoning their uniquely New England style and traditions, and whoring themselves out to the middlebrow tastes of catalogue-addled middle-class flyover state offal-gluttons, wasn't the smartest idea the Bean family ever had after all.

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    1. I agree! For years I bought well-made, classic clothes and items from LL Bean with compplete confidence that my purchases would fit well and endure for years. How I miss those days.

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    2. Perhaps if they had kept quality up, continued to make things in America instead of outsourcing to China, and stuck to what they did best instead of chasing after mall presence, then I would still be buying items from them that I have long since gone elsewhere for. Oh, and when the leaders I bought from them in about 2000 broke off the first two fish I should have landed I threw the rest away. All Orvis leaders and tippet ever since. Same year I noticed all my Bean polos were shrinking. I thought I was getting shorter. Please don't land.

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    3. Indeed, Anonymous 5:57—those were the days! I still have to treasured items from the late-70s and early-to-mid 80s. The sweaters in particular have taken on a wonderful patina and softness. I don't know that I'd necessarily have the same experience with the newer goods, which is disappointing.

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    4. I agree with all that was said above.

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    5. I wonder, could LL Bean survive today without the " the middlebrow tastes of catalogue-addled middle-class flyover state offal-gluttons?"

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    6. Given that it's still selling a version of its original aesthetic, shaping those tastes is entirely within its purview. Capitalizing on its history—starting, perhaps, with a return to the painted covers, and burnishing those pedigreed items it has on offer already, and expanding in that direction—would be a lateral move, not a leap into unknown territory. It's still L.L. Bean. All it has to do is remember that.

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    7. Oh no! I had no idea that I was a catalogue-addled middle-class flyover state offal-glutton and I'm so ashamed! Whatever do I need to do to become more aristocratic?

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    8. Likewise Anon@3:02pm....I assume we need to either move...or make more money, or perhaps both?

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    9. Proud catalogue-addled flyover state resident.

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  2. It's very difficult to expand a range without venturing into popular fashion . Moving away from specialist clothing ( by that , I mean quality waxed cotton and tartan etc ) soon finds the seller competing with countless companies and one-season-to-sell-it windows . I remember my first Barbour Border jacket in 1976 . It's the same model I bought last year ( fifth one now : one stolen and 3 worn out ! )which makes me a stick in the mud , according to my wife :-) I'm happy , which is what matters !

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    1. We're far from alone in wishing that Bean's would look back into its own archive, and draw on its own heritage. Bean's invented what made it special, and it's entirely possible for it to draw on that history. Doing so would set it apart from its competitors again, and probably inject a surge of the consumer enthusiasm which, by its own account, drove its sales in the 80s and 90s.

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  3. well at least...the dog looks happy.

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  4. Cutting workers benefits certainly doesn't do much for their reputation. It just gives me one more reason to not buy their products any more. I think their main problem, however, is they are not happy unless they make more money this year than they did last year. Why must they have growth every single year? Why can't they be happy with being stable? The whole idea that a business will grow every single year will eventually lead to disaster because eventually they will hit a ceiling.

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  5. I have been an LLB customer since 1970. For the past decade I have begged senior management to improve product quality and offer more made in US products.
    LLB is owned by 50 family member 10 of which serve on the Board. I am sure they put enormous pressure on senior management and employees to increase profit every year. I do not think the owners care about the company's heritage or customers any more.
    They only care about the profits available to finance their lifestyles.
    I have given up on LLB and am looking to Orvis and other options suggested by this and other web sites. THANKS.

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    1. I have a good number of orvis shirts and the quality is very good.

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  6. I agree with everyone's disgruntled comments as I, too, wish for a return of the Bean that used to be along with their catalog covers. The problem that I see, there is no longer an audience or appreciation for that type of quality with the younger generations. I don't think they know how to appreciate the old standards in light of reduced quality over the last decades - it all becomes relevant to the times. As for Orvis, they still offer quality items for men, but they too, have jumped on the bandwagon and redesigned their women's line toward a younger, more trendy look. Some of the basics that were offered season after season that you could count on have been eliminated and the sizing is no longer generous. Disappointed!

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    1. Bean's clothes for women years ago were meant to be USED. Cut generously, you could MOVE in them. That's important for people like me who actually DO STUFF and you know, get dirty outdoors. Too often lately, their offerings include "body-conscious" cuts with milk-straw sleeves impossible to layer, in impractical colors that practically SCREAM Yuppie. Knocking off Patagonia also bespeaks their cynicism. That said, should they ever go out of business my purchases will forever be confined to Ebay as nothing the rest of the world makes seems to fit me, if it ever did.

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  7. $100 green fees at muni courses, $500 drivers the size of cantaloupes, $500 for a beat-up Hardy Perfect, Goldens that can't hunt, put-and-take pheasants, high tech fabrics that aren't as warm as wool, meat that all tastes like industrial chicken, designer bourbon, pesticides that aren't, organic food that isn't, poems that don't rhyme, music that isn't melodic, singing that is talking, and art that is ugly. And the demise of LL Bean. Thank you, 20th Century.

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    1. ^ I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

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    2. My weekend is ruined after reading this 11:52 am comment...but I'll tell you what's fun - finding vintage LL Bean stuff on EBAY. The old stuff still has a good bit of the quality left in them when you can find them.

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    3. This comment is gorgeous. I'll go with "laugh."

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    4. Sorry to spoil your weekend. For my penance, let me suggest small-town parkland courses, persimmon woods and forged irons for a song on eBay, old Pflueger Gems, a friend with a hunting dog, a farmer who will let you walk his fields in return for some favors, old wool sweaters on eBay, a local butcher shop, Jack Manhattans, farm stand produce, Longfellow, Ralph Vaughan Williams, the flower duet from Lakme (Netrebko and Garanca), the Hudson River School, and everything on this web site.

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    5. To which I would add, a crackling fire, Thomas Hardy's Wessex Novels, and Kraken 94 black rum on the rocks. ;-)

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  8. Disappointing and sad, but not surprising.

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  9. Ralph Lauren said that he does not want the things he wore in 1970 to be old or the things he wore in 2015 to be new. I totally get it and agree. LLB does not get it anymore . Maybe they never really did......

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    1. Lauren talks a good game, but it's not true. Try to find a classic fit, small-pony, mesh Polo in black, dark blue, or dark green. They rode away on the unicorn.

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    2. Well your right, in part. His words still ring true in some respects. But it's a public company now and the almighty $ is king, sadly.

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  10. LL Bean products have certainly declined in quality exponentially over the past decade. Their shirts and khakis are chemical laden, poor facsimiles of their former selves. It is almost impossible to find good quality OCBD shirts or khakis in stores today that are made without chemicals to keep them wrinkle free. Has society become that lazy, that we can’t iron a shirt anymore? Or send it to the cleaners? There are only a few items I still buy from LLB; flannel shirts, Beam rubber moccasins and the Boat Totes. Every time I go into the store, I keep hoping I will be pleasantly surprised and find good quality, chemical-free clothing, but sadly I am not. My visits have become far fewer and more widely spread out over the past few years. Just like my relationship with Brooks Brothers, I am afraid a divorce is inevitable. C’est la vie!

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  11. get all your bean on Ebay it's worth it

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  12. Some of the products aren't what they once were and except for a few belts I hate Signature... that said I still really like L.L. Bean and far prefer their products to much of what one finds at malls, other catalogs, etc. But as things are not necessarily consistently available, tweaked, etc. I have started sort of gently stockpiling (to use a term I read on SWNE/TDP at one point.)

    My opinion on the wrinkle-free shirts seems to be different than many of the posters on here. I loathe ironing and am happy to find nice shirts that I don't have to iron.

    -EM

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  13. My first visit to Bean's was in 1966. My Dad made a special detour from our camping trip to walk those halls. Canoes, axes, boots, pocketknives, heavy canvas coats, and, of course, the totes.

    L.L. Bean is far from the same company now. Like someone else mentioned previously, the die-hard Bean base will pay extra for quality goods that will last decades.

    Growth isn't everything, despite what New York City says. There's something to be said for keeping the same size, gaining a few new customers yearly to offset those who have departed.

    Here in Seattle, we have a somewhat similar company called Filson, and I see them going the same way - pandering for "growth" instead of keeping true to their beginnings by offering the same plain old indestructable items that made their reputation in the first place.

    There's a genre here we call "lumbersexuals", who want things to look rugged, but don't want "Eeuuw, all that scratchy canvas". And it has to have a cellphone pocket, of course. Bean discovered them years ago and Filson looks to be courting them now.

    Okay, I'm done with my rant.
    For now.

    - Charlie

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    1. Agreed Charlie! We've been long-time customers and fans of both companies, Bean & Filson, and have gritted our teeth as we've watched the pandering towards changing tastes. Even if a company feels it needs to stay relevant, why would they want to sacrifice the tried and true products that they built their reputation upon? More often than not, newer is never better.

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    2. An etiquette instructor - good to see that manners are still here, for a while, at least. Not in Seattle, where sullen rules the day, but somewhere, at least.

      During ages 12 - 15, I was dragged unwillingly, along with all the other boys to Mrs. Whaley's Junior Cotillion in Charleston, SC. My mean old parents forced me to dress up and go every Wednesday night, where we guys would grump around and complain, while secretly hoping that certain girl would notice us...

      Heh, Charleston - where Porter-Gaud boys are told that only Ashley Hall girls are good enough for us, while Ashley Hall girls are told that nobody is good enough for them...

      - Charlie

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    3. Really a sweet story! Thank you for sharing. Needless to say, Charlie from SC, we etiquette instructors are a lonely bunch in Century 21, but still striving to bring back civility, one person at a time!

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