Friday, November 3, 2017

L.L. Bean plans to give its stodgy image the boot (again)

Photo by Salt Water New England
A reader sent in this story from The Boston Globe (L.L. Bean plans to give its stodgy image the boot <http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2017/11/02/bean-plans-give-stodgy-image-boot/AmOIFYCUGTtoIMgyGec8tO/story.html>), an interview with Steve Smith, L.L. Bean's president and chief executive on a new approach.
It means an increased push to stand out from competitors such as Land’s End and Eddie Bauer and the “contrived posers” that feign a familiarity with the great outdoors: “The folks who take people who shouldn’t be outdoors and then dress them up,” he joked.
Some may remember the last CEO launching L.L. Bean Signature, for similar "break-with-the-past" reasons, which seemed to feature contrived posers feigning familiarity with the great outdoors.
The article also notes:
The company is taking a pragmatic approach to its brick-and-mortar stores... pushing deeper into urban markets...  Those changes reflect the “end of the direct marketing model” and a shift of focus away from catalogues.
While "pragmatic" in this case means scaled back, the shifting away from direct marketing can be seen as retreating from logistics juggernaut Amazon, who has been making a very intensive push into clothing, with everything from house brands to the Echo Look, giving customized fashion advice and feeding a machine learning system.  Bean's strategy may have been devised before Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods, which gives Amazon a physical presence in many of the most profitable neighborhoods.

The article ends with a trial balloon thought on changing their guarantee.
[Smith] also said the company was surprised to learn in customer surveys that L.L. Bean’s “100 percent satisfaction” guarantee of all of its products didn’t seem to be valued as highly as assumed. 

One may cynically read this and walk away with a single thought: there seem to be no great, must-have products in the pipeline.  After more than a decade of over-marketed and over-priced undifferentiated trendy and poorly-made "global" garments sold by so many branded retailers, it is ever harder to imagine a compelling reason to make a special trek to an L.L. Bean store.  It took the iPhone to get customers into the Apple Stores, just as it took a more authentic and less generic approach to food to get people to shop at Whole Foods (which was less of an unqualified  success, but still a phenomenon).  Without killer products and new approaches to production, it seems that L.L. Bean will continue to get squeezed between Amazon for the affluent customers and Walmart for everyone else.

Or will this new strategy work?

68 comments:

  1. “The folks who take people who shouldn’t be outdoors and then dress them up,” he joked.

    Who shouldn't be outside? His comment is in direct conflict with their new "Be an Outsider" campaign.

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  2. No, it won't work. It didn't work a few years ago, and it won't work now. Focusing on retail, brick-and-mortar stores won't work either. Much like Lands' End, LL Bean's wounds are self-inflicted. People don't mind paying more for quality. BUT they do mind paying more for cheaply made products. LL Bean used to provide quality products at reasonable prices. Now they charge outrageous prices for products of questionable quality. Beyond that, they seem to have expanding into selling everything to everyone. They've expanded too much and now need to re-center on the fundamentals. If they don't, they'll continue to lose their loyal customers without attracting new ones. Again, much like Lands' End . . .

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  3. 750,000 pairs of Bean Boots will be made this year! Yikes! "Being an outsider" with that many boots will kill the outside.

    Too many boots!

    Aiken

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  4. It won't work. Product quality is a serious problem. L.L. Bean can't compare to Orvis or Filson. Even Eddie Bauer offers better quality clothes than L.L. Bean. Their Signature line of clothes could have worked, but they did it half-hearted. Signature products were often just as shabby as regular LL Bean products.

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  5. As many others have noted, this strategy is one of doubtful chance for success. Bean's leadership continues to sail without a tiller. Their CEO's remarks exemplify corporate egotism as well. Using Eddie Bauer or Land's End as comparisons show a lack of awareness, as both of those retailers have been irrelevant for years (mostly from their own poor quality). I agree with the survey data regarding Bean's return guarantee - It is good but not a good reason to pay too much for cheaply sourced and assembled products. My business has shifted to Orvis for the basics, where they offer better quality for the price.

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    Replies
    1. Agreed. L.L.Bean is an iconic brand.

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  6. I don't even know where to begin with how much I disagree with this new CEO (who interestingly came to the company from Wal-Mart- speaks volumes.) I only know that I expressed some frustrations to an employee at one of their retain stores who agreed with me.

    One thing that was always reliable was good L.L. Bean customer service. However this year they introduced some new inventory system where orders get stuck, they can't fulfill orders, or they cancel orders without telling you (all of the above has happened to me in the past year.) In fairness they recently did comp me a small item that I ordered using a $10 gift certificate I had from a previous order as well as a promo they had-- but that was after a mess up on their part and a few complaints to customer service about the state of things.

    If they are going to insist on retail they should at least open in Europe. Lands' End, for all they have also done poorly in recent years, has a .de and .co.uk presence (no customs hassles or expensive international shipping to the European country where I live.)

    As for 'stodgy' that was mentioned in the article-- I want my L.L. Bean things to be 'stodgy.' I want well-made, classic things that will last a long time. If I want trendy junk there are plenty of other sources for that. Except for some of the belts (which I actually have and like very much) I hate all of the Signature collection. Ugly, overpriced junk.

    -EM

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    Replies
    1. I, too, want to be able to buy "stodgy." What's wrong with classic, well-made good-looking clothing that isn't "on trend?"

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    2. Also, stodgy should not be equated with frumpy.

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  7. I lived in L.L. Bean clothing during the 1980s and early 1990s. Then something happened at the corporate level and the quality goods at a great price that I had known for so many years went to crap. I have ordered perhaps a half-dozen items from L.L. Bean since 2010. But for two shetland wools sweaters, I returned the other items because they were made of inferior materials and fit poorly.

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  8. Contrived posers that feign familiarity with the outdoors? Dude, no serious outdoorsman goes to LLB any more for outdoor gear, your market there has been usurped by niche providers and technical gear.

    LL Bean was a cultural icon but like Brooks Brothers you've pissed away your legacy and you're never gonna get it back.

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    1. We actually do get outdoor gear at L.L. Bean. We've bought headlamps, XC skis, snowshoes, ice skates, a kayak, a paddle board, a toboggan....

      They carry a lot of high end, technical outdoor brands of both equipment and apparel.

      I mean, we're not summiting Everest, but we spend a great deal of time out and about.

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  9. Similar story for Eddie Bauer, who started much like LL Bean from the other side of the country. Speaking from the Northwest, you'll find far more Patagonia and REI products on people for all outdoor use before seeing "EB" products. Even their once-interesting stores have become boutiques. I haven't visited a Sears store in years to see how Land's End appears.

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  10. L.L. Bean had something that no one else had, as well as their history. They sold themselves out to capture a dumbed-down middle-American market demographic that would literally buy anything at all if the price was right, and which will move on when the next bright, shiny object is waved in front of their faces. What'll be left will be just another purveyor of mediocre, ill-fitting, goods made outside of the U.S. to compete with all the rest. If that's the mud they want to play in, they're well on their way. Hard to believe that's what Leon Leonwood Bean had in mind when he started out.

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  11. I think he's on track. Bean is going nowhere right now.
    I like new blood with the opportunity to take vintage lines and adapt them.
    They need someone to return a product of value they once stood for.
    I never considered Bean an outdoor outfitter ever. I viewed them as a purveyor of comfort apparel and footwear products for people exposed to colder climates, slush and snow. But I never viewed then as an outfitter like the original Abercrombie in New York City.

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    1. "Adapt them" to what? The "vintage items" were already perfect. That's what made them classics. And the reason Bean "is going nowhere right now" is because of the "new blood" that thought Bean needed "adapting" in the first place.

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    2. I agree with you, 4:42! No more "adaptations". They need to go back in time and reclaim what made them great. Also, I live in Maine and L.L.Bean is has always been primarily an outdoor outfitter.

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  12. Well, you can't go home again, can you? LL Bean will do all it can to survive in an internet market. I still find a lot of good quality things available at Bean which cannot be found elsewhere. I think the "buy USA" market is one way they may be able to help themselves, though some imports such as the Norwegian sweaters seem to be making a big come back. I make a lot of purchases from Amazon, however, I have found the clothing to be cheap and poorly made with the exception of socks and underwear. I suppose Bean could take advantage of the Amazon behemoth and sell some of its products there as other brands have. Who knows what will happen? It would really sadden me to see the demise of such an iconic American brand.

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    1. "Cheap and poorly made" describes L.L. Bean in its current incarnation. As for "going home again," of course it could. They're chattering about reinventing themselves. It's their choice to reinvent themselves as an even bigger purveyor of crap aimed at middle-American high proles than they are now, or going back to what made them L.L.Bean in the first place.

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  13. Going for the " Millinial" market....to heck with the old loyal consumers....yes they need to expand their online market....but I can see it becoming a shell of itself in a few years.

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  14. The previous commenters have expressed my thoughts (mostly about decline of quality) better than I can.

    Here is something I don't understand. I tried a pair of their wildly popular iconic boots decades ago, and I found that with no breathability, my feet sweat terribly. I wonder if other people have had this issue.

    By the way, I'm not trying to be anonymous. I don't use the computer that much, and I don't have any of the accounts on the list. That is why I click the anonymous box, and I suspect some other old geezers do as well for the same reason.

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    Replies
    1. Yes I had that exact experience when I wore them in the 1980s and haven't worn them since.

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    2. Agree on the sweaty feet. I had a pair in college in the late 80s and early 90s (didn’t we all?) and remember the soles were quite slippery on wet floors.

      A few years back I purchased another pair, forgetting about the sweat issue. I keep them at our cabin and rarely wear them.

      I found their boys clothing to be excellent quality 5-10 years ago.

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    3. I wear my Bean boots with heavy woolen socks and never have a problem with sweaty feet. Perhaps the secret is the wool.

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    4. Bitsy, I did wear them with wool ragg socks. The issue is that rubber isn't breathable.

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    5. I only wear my bean boots when it's wet outside and it's cold enough that my feet won't sweat. I have the Thinsulate pair for extra warmth in the midwestern winters. I don't consider them fashionable boots to walk around town in, but they are functional for heading out into the woods in light rain and snow. I wore them up north this weekend in the woods and it rain/snowed/sleeted and hovered around freezing all day yesterday and with a pair of wool socks I was just fine. When I'm in the city I don't wear them unless it's snowing or cold and rainy for the exact reasons you mentioned, though I don't think any truly waterproof rubber boot is breathable.

      On a side note, I also have a pair of Le Chameau Chasseurs with leather lining. They are not nearly as warm as the bean boots but the leather lining somewhat helps with the clamminess that happens in rubber booths. I wear them when it's warmer and raining. Perhaps trying something like that would be a good middle ground between waterproof/breathable?

      - ER

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    6. I used to wear them all winter when I was at college in Maine. Everyone was wearing them. EVERYONE. They were definitely a thing just like the barn jackets (as we called them then) in the 1980s. There are many wonderful high-tech options today that offer waterproofing, warmth and breathability, but interestingly I still buy those boots at Bean's, albeit they are not made by them.

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  15. The founder of Herr's potato chips once said, "Quality today for a job tomorrow". As more companies fall to the lure of the sirens singing "cheaper, faster, now", My hope is some phenomenal companies emerge with a mission to be different. Living in a digital age where most have access to all the internet has to offer, it is easier than ever to access a myriad of reviews for a product before purchasing. Millennials are using reviews the way 'word of mouth' was used before the prevalence of the Internet. While reviews make a Millennial a more informed buyer, are they still a purchaser of crap? As my father says, "We live in a disposable world where nothing is taken care of and everything can be replaced". We see that is true everyday, people buying or leasing new vehicles every other year, throwing out clothes based on "last years styles" and this ideology has even infiltrated human relationships. How do we change? My opinion is, at home. My parents, especially my father (native to Connecticut who truly lives the New England thrift that has been mentioned on SWNE in the past) raised me to appreciate the items I possessed, to take care of said items and not to waste money on junk. I know what he taught me is same that his father taught him. My Grandfather, who is still living in Connecticut, has had the same John Deere snow blower since 1968. There are very few new items he has purchased in his household, he doesn't need to because he has been a good steward of his belongings.

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    1. Your father must be my husband. His words exactly and often! PA

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    2. My husband, too. He has a lot of new equipment for our business, only because he has to keep up. But his favorite is his old 1950's Monarch lathe that runs beautifully. No computer, no nothing. It has never given him a day of trouble. He cleans it and cares for it like a prized possession, which it is for him. He takes care of all of his equipment and tools, but that one is special. Same frugal New England values.

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    3. I have to admit my Grandfather with the 1968 snowblower takes New England frugality to next level. I lived with him for a bit and one time he told me he bought some frozen vegetables or something and now they were on sale. He asked me to go to Stop & Shop with the receipt to get the .33 cents difference. I just told him I had .33 cents to give him. Another thing he does is wash and reuse zip lock bags and saves and uses those foam trays usually used for meat at the store but he only saves those used for cut up fruit. I would take my showers down in the basement and if he felt I was in there too long the water would be turned off. He is 81 and he has lived through some difficult times in his life, growing up on a dairy farm in Wethersfield, CT, he and his siblings would slaughter livestock at unimaginable ages. I can only imagine.

      I love his ways though, my Dad and I often laugh about the way he is. My Grandfather has this New England quick wittedness that is truly unmatched.
      Example: One time he was in the garage peering out of the little glass panes in the garage door. A man walking his dog stops in the front yard as his dog starts to :blank:. After the dog is finished the man starts to walk away at that very instant the garage is nearly ripped off the track as my Grandfather walks out asking, "Aren't you going to pick that up?" To which the man answers, "Yes!". My Grandfather then says, "How you going to do that when you're walking that way!" Meanwhile, I'm in the house dying of laughter.

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    4. Go, Grandad, GO !
      Heh, my daughter probably thinks much the same of me.

      Make the best product you possibly can, and people will buy it.

      - Charlie

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  16. https://www.forbes.com/sites/markcohen/2016/09/27/landsend-a-victim-of-sears-serial-retail-abuse/#7a2fe2c17ca8

    Forbes article pretty much plays it out for Lands End. Someone at L.L. Bean needs to read this article and this blog.

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  17. Comments from disappointed L.L. Bean customers concern me. They are especially disappointing as I've recently been thinking L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, Lands' End, Cabela's, and similar are fine for casual hikers.

    When I attended Department Head School at the Naval Station Newport in the late 80s, everyone had to make at least one pilgrimage to L.L. Bean in Freeport. The wives would load up on a weekday while we husbands were in class (it was still almost totally men) and make a girls' trip, and on a Saturday the whole family would leave early - children in safety seats, NPR on the radio, and coffee in early commuter mugs. Ah, the Yuppie Years.

    A "GQ" period followed an early-90s divorce: even my outdoor and fitness wear mostly came from designer collections. Overcompensation and retail therapy. I met my second (and last ^_^) wife and came back down to earth.

    I joined my wife in Colorado and entered the outdoors business after retiring from the Navy, and sold, bought, wore, and used outdoor specialty brands such as Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, The North Face, Marmot - on and on. We sold our business a few years back. Time marches on and I don't climb or run or mountain bike with the same vigor, so the necessity for the best technical gear isn't what it used to be. Too, I've always thought a 61 year-old man looking like he's trying to look 16 is just stupid.

    The only thing I've bought from L.L. Bean in the last 20 - maybe 30 - years is a replacement classic Navy Norwegian sweater, eight years ago. The quality, weight, craftsmanship, all of that are fine, but the fir in the abdomen and waistband are just weird. I'm still fit enough and vain enough to want my clothes to flatter, but this thing looks like I'm wearing a lampshade and doesn't fit like my old, 1980s-era one did. Customer reviews showed I wasn't alone in thinking this, and some said they'd returned their sweater, but I kept mine and am actually wearing it as I type.

    Even though outdoor wear is commonplace here in the Colorado mountains, I don't wear technical clothing as often after my successful run for county commissioner. I've been thinking I'd buy replacement lifestyle pieces from companies like L.L. Bean (and I did buy a Lands' End Squall Jacket last year because Patagonia inexplicably stopped making their version, the Shelled Synchilla Jacket). My commissioner job has me outdoors often, but it's enough of a business environment that I don't want to look like I just came off the trail, a rock face, the river, or a slope. For example, I just bought a Patagonia Recycled Wool Crewneck Sweater because I'm replacing some technical mid-layer fleeces with sweaters.

    Even though I've left the outdoor industry, my goal remains to get more people outdoors, enjoying and appreciating Nature, exercising, and supporting conservation and public lands. Walking into a specialty outdoor shop, bicycle shop, or ski shop for the first time intimidates many people, and let's face it, the stuff ain't cheap, especially when you're just getting started and don't know if you'll even like it. I was literally - and I do mean literally - a short time away from committing the traitorous-to-the-outdoor-industry act of making a Facebook post on the order of "L.L. Bean, Lands' End, Cabela's, even JCPenney St. John's Bay clothes are good enough for the average casual hiker on a budget," so these quality issues concern me.

    L.L. Bean sponsored Tour de France television coverage during the early aughts. One of their ads showed a group of people waiting on a wilderness beach for a floatplane to pick them up. Video and voiceover featured L.L. Bean clothing and gear as the plane circled overhead, approached, touched down, and taxied in. It sold the dream. Successful marketing is all about selling the dream, about letting people put themselves in the picture.

    All the dream-selling in the world goes for naught if the merchandise sucks.

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  18. Keith Baker. That was awesome. Well said. No wonder people voted for you.

    Btw. Alex Carlson is alive and well in Seattle designing great stuff for Filson.

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    1. Thank you 12:23! Filson is still a strong brand. Alex added value to several strong brands, so Filson is lucky to have him. (Do I know you?)

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    2. Oh no. Sorry can't vote for you as I am Canadian.

      I only mentioned Carlson because I think he took a lot of heat for Signature.

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    3. I follow - thank you! Most of my visits to Canada have been to Esquimalt, BC, the Canadian Navy's Pacific base. It's unbelievably beautiful there.

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  19. The competition is not Land's End or Eddie Bauer, or even Bass Pro Shops, it's changes in the culture. The truth no one here has yet elucidated is that Millennials, the largest bulge in the snake's belly now, have no interest whatsoever in wearing the kind of tailored, traditional clothing that practically screams "white privilege." 98% of our population is now "urban," much of it is of non-European extraction, and most of it is more than happy to wear cheap, foreign-made, logo-emblazoned disposable junk advertising sports teams, hip-hop culture, or pajama-boy geekland. Clothing is no longer looked upon as a class marker that signals wealth, that slot now belongs to mobile digital devices.

    Additionally, an estimated 85% of our population now gets -zero- exercise of any kind, let alone "trail" hiking. Most people even in upscale Northeastern suburbs' relationship to "nature" is at least 3 degrees of separation. Farming in my town is now a museum-based "enrichment" activity, as is "nature." Which says it all.

    Look around you in the supermarket, or on an NYC subway train. Stretch pants or leggings, ripped jeans, slouchy logo hoodies and ball caps, ubiquitous loud sneakers, genetically attached "smart" phone and The North Face are what "the kewl kids" between 14 and 54 are wearing anyplace they can get away with it, and more and more workplaces have lowered their standards to the same. The ethos is that of a near-Maoist egalitarian conformity.

    Bean made its mistake waaaay back, when it started marketing to the outdoorsy and WASPy "look" instead of making functional, genuine outdoor clothing. I'd put that date way back at roughly 1995. The difference is that between a real-life lumberjack and a Brooklyn hipster dressing up the way he thinks a rugged individualist "lumberjack" ought to "look."

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    1. You are gutsy Greenfield! Say it like you mean it!! PA

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    2. Ah, Greenfield....You always say it so well, and I can't disagree with anything you wrote. Too true.

      Jacqueline

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    3. Go, Greenfield!

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    4. My thirty-something children and their friends work in the legal and financial fields and they wear suits to work. They hike mountains, fly fish, canoe, etc. on week-ends and wear appropriate clothing. They runs errands in gym clothes with no intention of going to the gym. They used to buy from L.L. Bean but no more. Patagonia, Vineyard Vines (overpriced L.L. Bean) R.E.I. and Brooks Brothers are their "go-to stores". I can think of no marketing approach that will get this generation back. Greenfield you are depressingly correct.

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    5. This is a tangent, but the thought comes from reading Greenfield's comments:

      Do you think there's any way to heal the Millennial vs. Boomer divide? Boomers raised the millennials and yet it seems that they blame all the problems of today on their choices that veer away from how they understand the world. Conversely, the millennials blame their problems on the Boomer's decisions that set up the world they live in. We live in a world of increasing divides between "us" and "them" and if we don't have some sort of inter-generational cohesion and care then we're truly done.

      - ER

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    6. 08:49 - for whatever reasons (I know some of the ones I LIKE to think), I don't personally receive much anti-Boomer blowback. My kids share a my taste in music, my socio-political outlook, and general worldview. The young people in our community generally support me in my local political endeavors. That isn't to say I doubt the gap's existence. It seems there's always one, and we Boomers were on the younger side of the "Generation Gap" of the late 60s-early 70s. Nor am I saying much of the harsher criticism isn't deserved. Just this morning I saw this excerpt from a comment on CBS Sunday Morning's Facebook post about their story on Rolling Stone's 50th anniversary: "Like the “Baby Boomer” generation that was it’s audience, Rolling Stone has inflated it’s self importance..."

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  20. Greenfield makes a few valid points.

    Whenever I come back to the US it never ceases to horrify me how few people are wearing decent clothing out in public. (For example, pajama pants and ripped up sweats to the grocery store, restaurants, etc.) And I don't think it has to be a class/financial status thing-- even at places like Wal-Mart (shudder) it is possible to buy pants that are not ripped up and a decent top. And it costs nothing to remove a baseball cap from your head when you go into a restaurant.

    --EM

    As for the other comments made earlier including Eddie Bauer--- these days all I buy there are socks. On a recent visit back my husband and I were in one of their stores. He told me I should get anything they had that I wanted-- at one time it might have been dangerous to set me free in there to get whatever I wanted... but except for socks there was nothing there that I wanted. The quality, fabrics, etc. just aren't what they once were.

    --EM

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  21. FYI, Bean has already posted a sampling of product to Amazon. [That's what retail mdse is called these days: "product"] - some 30 or 40 inventory items floated to test reponse I guess.

    Very curious how the chamois shirt compares year-to-year, that shirt was my family's clan favorite.

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  22. I am finding it harder and harder to find decent quality basic items anywhere. I have bought a few things on ebay because the quality of clothing from even 5 years ago is so much better. Meanwhile, I have items that are older that are holding up fantastically well. For example Barbour Beaufort jackets from the late eighties and early nineties, or Brooks Brothers made in the USA oxford shirts from the same era.

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  23. First, the comments about the Bean boots are amusing. Bean boots are excellent tools for their intended purpose, walking afield in damp and rainy conditions. I would not wear scrubs outside the hospital or clinical settings for which they were purposed, and Bean boots are not urban/town fashion statements, they are wrongly purposed in that context.

    LL Bean is faced with problems of scale should they wish to grow and prosper. They could produce or resell high quality, durable classics which the faithful would purchase once every decade or so, but to do so would consign them to a boutique brand, necessitating tight cost control and a struggle to have sufficient retail stores to permit hands-on experience and sales volume.

    The online business will forever be under assault by multiple competitors such as Orvis, Lands End, Backcountry, Patagonia, REI, and of course Amazon. Only truly excellent service, fulfillment, and strong emotional attachment in branding can enable Bean to maintain a viable model. Their path forward is neither easy nor obvious.

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    1. I saw something jogging in Bean boots this morning?!?!

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    2. Ah-ha! That person obviously wants to "be an outsider"!

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  24. Recent visit to a newly opened Bean store, reminded me of Old Navy. Bean has followed the corporate mantra, grow or die, which again has been proven to be not the wisest strategy. Slow growth, with quality, consistent product lines, creating exclusivity while being fairly priced, would have been the better and most profitable choice. All things come to an end, and I am afraid Bean is accelerating its demise. My Bean boots are 30 years old, they will most likely outlast me and I will miss my annual trip to Freeport to do the "Bean run". Let us have a moment of silence. PBH

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    1. I actually shuddered when I read "Old Navy".

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  25. This "grow or die" observation is spot on. For a privately held company, in particular, I don't understand that mentality. I can recall when I wanted to purchase more things in the Bean catalogue than I could possibly afford; that's certainly no longer the case (alas, not because I won the lottery).

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  26. I still buy the boots and socks. Otherwise I hunt for old products on ebay. I would buy them new if they were still sold new.

    I just sent a "barn coat" back to bean. I have the very worn (holes and buttons coming off) barn coat I purchased in 1995. I expect the same level of quality if the prices have gone up. It seems prices continue to rise but the quality is in free fall. Guess I will shop either Filson's Field Coat or Kevin's Plantation Jacket.

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  27. My, but your Bean posts do generate some feedback, don't they ?

    My Dad would take a month off from his practice every year, and we would go on extended camping trips.
    On one of those trips, 1968 or so, my Dad got to make his Holy Pilgrimage To Freeport.
    That was a wonderland, with canoes suspended from the ceiling (can't buy those from Bean now), a selection of axes (can't buy those from Bean now)...

    I have several items from Bean, and I'll probably continue to shop there no matter what, but if the quality continues to decline, my purchases will be small.

    One think I do get a "Heh" from, is wearing my Bean jacket here in Seattle, which is solidly REI and North Face territory.

    - Charlie

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  28. While we're questioning some (formerly?) fond brands and sources, there's this: https://www.landsend.com/theweatherchannel/?cm_re=lec-_-hp-_-hr1-1-4-_-learnmore-_-20171107-_-cta

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  29. Didn't Bean used to be the outfitter for TWC?

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  30. Bought a couple of flannel shirts from Bean and the box came yesterday, emblazoned with this very odd "Be an Outsider" slogan. I get the pun, but a lot of people might not, and don't most of us want to be INSIDERS? As in "trading?!" "Be an Outsider" makes me think of a kid locked out of kindergarten making frosty nose-prints on the window. . .

    Also had to walk a bizarre collection of no less than 3 pretentiously glossy-printed enclosures to the recycling bin, ALL advertising the same product, the "Bean Boot" albeit in a trying-too-hard lineup of new iterations. When are these people ever going to start LISTENING to us?

    (Don't even get me started on the clowns who just redesigned Blue Seal feed bags with absurd, non-descriptive names for time-honored products we've used and called the same thing for half a century. Marketing depts., Grrr!)

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    1. Greenfield, I also ordered a flannel shirt and noticed the advertisements. I am quite disappointed with my flannel shirt (women's) because it no longer has a button-down collar! The shirt is now designed to show more skin and/or requires under garments like many of LL Beans clothing today. I don't wear flannel in warm climates to look sexy and I certainly don't want to show my undergarments. How tacky. I believe Bean's new ' outsider' campaign is in preparation for a focus on cheaply made and over-priced athletic-wear. Eddie Bauer made the same move after 2005 and the only thing I ever buy from them now are flannel pillow cases. Bean is also adding their logo to many of their outdoor styles ( free advertising for them) now which limits my purchases since I won't wear labels.
      For the past 4 years, I've been buying vintage Bean and Bauer and Orvis clothing and gear on Ebay but it's slim pickings today. Most of the current items currently listed are from the past two years.
      I've been 'window shopping' Guideboat Co. but I haven't purchased anything yet because I don't know if their quality is worthy of the hefty price tag. Love their catalog though!

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  31. You can easily tell by the volume of Ebay offerings which "experimental" styles from a number of brands either fit no one, fit weirdly, or are just universally loathed. Guaranteed the numbers of "slim fit" BB polos outnumber regular fit 9 to 1, ditto "slightly fitted" items from Bean. A quick perusal of Ebay is a good tutorial for what NOT to order at full price!

    Got the big Christmas catalog in tonight's mail; and I hear what you're saying, Anon. 12:33, about "showing skin" (yuck) and cheesy fabric. Based on the models they chose, they're also aiming at "hipster-chic" and trying very hard to knock off Patagonia with those skinny down jackets in creepy colors. Sigh . . . these things DO tend to strongly follow Muffy's "life cycle of brands/retailers" over the long term. I think Bean is entering "Cash Grab" at this point, and will probably wind up eaten by Uniqlo. Ouch.

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  32. Before retirement I bought good OCBD's and when they showed wear I would take them for everday. Now, I've really had no need to replenish for a few years and so I'd like to buy new shirts and Bean has them for 45 buck but they are those treated things that I've never had to wear. It seems that my choices now are to change my lifetime "uniform", buy treated that has that certain feel or spend 2-3 as much as I would if someone only had an untreated Bean priced shirt. Yep tried Lands End and don't like their too short collars.

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