Sunday, February 11, 2018

Not Guaranteed to Last: 5 Questions About L.L. Bean

On its journey to company shell, L.L. Bean remains an interesting case study.  Past L.L. Bean produced books: The Making of an American Icon (Bean's iconic era, printed in the U.S.) and Guaranteed to Last (Bean's cash grab era, printed in China).  Guaranteed to Last provided by L.L. Bean. Photo by Salt Water New England.
L.L. Bean's dissolution of their century-old guarantee generated some questions.
(Also see Bloomberg's The Death of Clothing <https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-death-of-clothing/>, mentioned in the comments, and the earlier post <http://www.saltwaternewengland.com/2017/05/j-crew-2-billion-dollars-in-debt.html>.)
These may be more salient now, but few are surprising.  The beginning of the end of L.L. Bean was laid out by the contrast of approaches by two L.L. Bean CEO's, as quoted in  Leon Gorman's book, L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon:

Leon Gorman (past L.L. Bean CEO):
  • "Our overall strength was functional value – products that did what they were supposed to do, did it every time, and did it for a long time, all for a reasonable price.  This was what L.L. Bean was known for."
  • Quoting Gentlemen’s Quarterly – “…emphasis on simplicity, practicality and durability.  Unlike “high fashion” where “look” is foremost and function secondary, the appearance of Bean apparel is guided by what the clothes are intended to do.”
  • “We also never put a lot of editorial content or outdoors imagery in our catalogs.  We relied on our products and their descriptions to tell who we were.”
  • “LL Bean as fashion was a mixed blessing for us, and we all knew it.  Our sales increased markedly in the near term but were unlikely to be sustainable long term.  In addition, being fashionable was a serious contradiction of our character and brand positioning.  It confused our positioning internally as well as in the marketplace.”
  •  “We continued to use our employees and their families, friends, and dogs as models.  We didn't want to come across as slick or sophisticated (and we didn't want to pay expensive fees for professional models.)"
Chris McCormick (subsequent L.L. Bean CEO):
  • "I don’t’ want to overstate it but we were lagging on our sourcing competencies.  I'm guessing 60 or 70 percent of our items were probably sourced in the (United States) then.  Maybe a little bit less than that but not much.  What the consultants pointed out is that the world had moved offshore.  Yes it would be nice if we could keep sourcing products in the (United States), but, realistically, all those jobs were going offshore anyway.  The competencies were leaving this country and from a competitive standpoint we really had no choice.  The quality, by the way, would be just as good, if not better than the (United States).  So we created the sourcing department and gave them marching orders to improve our margins and reduce our cost of goods sold."
  • "To this day (sourcing) was probably the most successful thing that came out of the Strategic Review.  Today maybe 20 percent of our items are made in the (United States), and the rest are offshore…We needed to really learn quickly about vendors located in different countries, the quotas and all those tariffs, and everything about bringing product in here and we did that very quickly.  The cost of goods initiative was probably the single biggest reason the year... was as successful as it was.   That’s when our business really turned around.  It wasn't so much sales growth that drove the performance of that year, it was improving margins that improved profitability of that year."
See also August, 2011 Poll "Is L.L. Bean on the right track?" <http://www.saltwaternewengland.com/2011/08/poll-is-ll-bean-on-right-track.html>

Some categories of questions put forth by readers and others:

1. "Is such a retroactive action legal?  Can L.L. Bean change the terms of past purchases?" "For how long was L.L. Bean externally advertising their guarantee after they had internally decided to end it?"

2. "Why was L.L. Bean so aggressive towards their own customers in their announcement?  To shoppers reading the news, the headline should have read, 'Two less reasons to go to L.L. Bean'.  Rather than striking a tone of either balance (with perhaps an announcement: 'We have lowered our prices by 5%' or 'We have doubled our Made in U.S. offerings') or contrition ('We just can't afford any longer..., but we will do everything we can to make customers happy...') Beans attacked and characterized customers with such specific words as 'abusive' and 'fraudulent', and framing itself as a victim."

3.  "In how much financial trouble is L.L. Bean, really?"  "Did the Linda Bean vocal support of Trump erode the perceived alignment between some existing customers and Bean management?" "Will L.L. Bean exist as an independent company in three years?"  "Who might buy them out?"

4.  "Is this finally the end of the over-priced, over-sold 'Lifestyle,' made-in-China brands, including JC Penney, J. Crew, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, and Sears?" "Has the U.S. press, rather than providing intelligent reviews, been too blithely accepting of the PR narratives of the clothing and fashion companies, and has this hurt these companies - and consumers - in the long term?"

5.  "Who misused the guarantee more: no-good customers or the evolving L.L. Bean?"  "The issue for the history books is not 'Why the guarantee did not work' (which is obvious) but, earlier, 'Why the guarantee did.'"



Note:  This comment, from February, 2014, was added on February 15, 2018, as it adds some perspective:
I work for Beans and I'd like to share my observations over the past few years. I have learned that we are serving a number of different consumer groups. 
1. First, is the die hard, long term Bean customer, ie; readers of TDP. The company is trying very hard to maintain a relationship with this group. Unfortunately, this group has a very long memory matched only by their extremely high standards. Needless to say, it has been a battle that I don't think they have lost just yet. This group prefers classic design with quality materials and workmanship. 
2. The second group are the customers who are enamored of the LL Bean mystic. They love the idea of being "prep" and "Down-east" without having to leave home. These customers are definitely middle to upper middle class and have grown up in our disposable society and are comfortable with lower quality, imported items. Planned obsolescence is the norm. This group is more apt to follow fashion trends. 
3. Finally, the bargain hunters who feel they are buying a brand name at a deep discount. These customers never pay retail and are only there to peruse the sale racks and could really care less about quality or country of origin. 
That said, I do know that the company really is trying to meet the needs of the first group without alienating the second. They have brought back certain items from the archives, such as the women's Norwegian sweater which was a huge success at $169. They do know they have work to do.

60 comments:

  1. LL Bean in 3-5 years will no longer exist as we know it.....Oh, the footwear division will be bought out by another company....But clothes? You can buy the same " junk" from other companies. Often at more competitive prices.

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  2. Business is about profit. The buyer chooses level of quality they accept, and as long as buyers buy, then all is well. As a long time buyer and use it till it disintegrate of Bean products, I choose not to accept what they are offering and will not wallow in the "remember when" discussions. I will stock up on Duct Tape, cloth patches, needles and thread and be the Yankee I was raised to be.

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  3. https://newmainenews.com/2018/02/10/ll-beans-new-return-policy-is-a-huge-blow-for-millionaire-cheapskates/

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  4. I think this came as no surprise. As both a retailer and manufacture there is an Income Statement line item called "Returns and Allowances" and it will drag margins in a minute if it's not reasonable.
    But I like the CEO's statements here. I think they represent the Bean evolution quite well. I think they may have reactionary rather than pro-active in sourcing.
    I know everyone is somewhat pro Bean in this blog. Or at least was, at one time, so it is unfortunate to see a staple item of ours ill.
    I think they road the the fashion train too far. But that is hindsight.
    They are losing good people to other companies now and I don't know what lies ahead foe them. But I see a retreat from the market.

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  5. I have been a customer of Bean for many years and have never had a problem with their return policy. I see that due to some abusers they have changed their policy, but I don't see it having much effect on me. I will continue to be a customer of L.L. Bean, because when you live in New England , you need warm winter clothes. I do not see any other suppliers which are as reasonably priced and servicable. While there are a few others like Barbour, Burberry and Orvis, I find they are very overpriced for basics. I'd spend the money on a few of their specialty items, but Bean wins the day for everyday basics. I find that they are dependable when I order, and not like a crap shoot as when ordering clothing through Amazon, for example. In addition their return policy makes it easy if the item doesn't fit. During this very cold winter, I've found that Lands End has had superior down pieces. Bean definitely needs to step it up a bit in that area. All in al I've gotten resigned to the fact that most clothing these days, even high end is made overseas. Not to say I like it.If you buy an item made in the USA it is usually 3 times the price. Since I am not like some who hang on to clothes for eternity, I will continue to go with the flow, since I don't really see an alternative, since as someone pointed out, decisions are made in the corporate offices based on profit.

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    1. I bought a really nice down coat from Eddie Bauer in December (my first non-Bean coat in ages), and it was around 1/2 the price of the equivalent at L.L.Bean. Not just that, it's stylish and doesn't make me look like a frump. They offer an unconditional lifetime guarantee. Made overseas, yes, but priced accordingly. It's not ideal, but for now.

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  6. Great questions for discussion. I'll only answer one of them for now. I don't have any problems with outsourcing, per se, as long as the quality is acceptable. I don't own many LL Bean items, but I can compare, let's say, the Lands' End shirts in my wardrobe with the older "Direct Merchants" label (made in Costa Rica) and the newer plain blue label (made in China), and the latter are flimsy compared to better quality in the older shirts. So, it's not necessarily a matter of where the clothing is outsourced, but the quality of the clothing being made.

    I also have Brooks Brothers lambswool sweaters (made in England) from the 80s that are top quality and still holding up (I think these were made by Alan Paine at the time and sold under the Brooks Brothers label) and I have a more recent LL Bean lambswool sweater (made in China) that is very cheaply made, with a spongy kind of texture. It's sort of OK, but not the greatest.

    But I think this is all a part of the overall trend to cheap and disposable clothing, along with the public not caring so much anymore either.

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  7. In hindsight, it seems obvious to me that when LLB changed, primarily, from "form follows function" to "fashionable and also functional", the liberal return policy was bound to be misused. They were attempting to market to a different group of people, a larger group of people, who chose clothing based on different criteria.

    For the old LLB and the old customers, it was a gentlemanly agreement. LLB would sell durable items and the customers could return them if, in the long run, the items turned out not to be as durable as touted.

    When long-term durability takes a backseat to lifestyle fashion, it is unreasonable to imagine that these customers will want to keep wearing an item until it wears out. There is less risk on the part of the customer, as the fashion of an item is more readily assessed via photograph. A liberal return policy, therefore, will be seen as a gimmick--and treated as such.

    You can't have it both ways. Either you deal with a small, somewhat selective group with certain common norms (ex: One doesn't take advantage of the other party in a business dealing.), or you market to a larger, less-selective group and make arrangements to protect yourself from people with different norms (ex: Look out for yourself because no one else is.).

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    1. #Marisa, thank you for perfectly stating what I tried to say, sadly, not as well as you have. I am happy for the clarity and sad for knowing it.

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  8. When Bean's started to market to middle-class, catalogue-obsessed consumption machines from God know's where, who cared nothing about Bean's original aesthetic, and just wanted "cheap stuff," it was the beginning of the end. None of this is a surprise

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  9. Problem #1 is that, as per the article "The Death of Clothing" on Bloomberg yesterday, people are quite simply buying fewer clothes. FAR fewer. Since virtually no one now does enough physical labor to actually wear it out, most of it looks generically alike, and both work and social settings drifted to extremes of "casual" aka "slob," there are few incentives for cash-strapped Millennials drowning in student loans or parents raising kids to pay $60.00 for a basic flannel shirt or $75.00 for a pair of slacks which then require dry-cleaning or ironing.

    Furthermore, look around at what's driving the culture--Instagram fashion mimics the styles of Kanye and Beyonce, not your grandfather Hubertus III. Any remote hint of "white privilege" is like a scarlet letter on campus and most "woke" workplaces, which is increasingly ALL of them. Perversely, it's colleges who started this cultural scapegoating nonsense as a smokescreen for mediocrity and attenuated financial and career prospects. Oh for Ye Olde Daze when our biggest worry was whether or not to wear duck boots with a skirt, and who was making the booze run!

    "Preppy" dress epitomizes pride in "Old School" white privilege, and privilege in general. That's what made "The Official Preppy Handbook" a campy expose and far-reaching cultural touchstone. Today, outside of Wall Street and a few "white shoe" law firms, there is no longer much market for button-down Oxford shirts, crisply pleated khakis, and women's clothes that are actually flattering and cover a business-appropriate expanse of skin. That's why Bean joined late the cultural race to the lowest-common-denominator bottom. THAT'S why L.L.Bean is is trouble.

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    1. At some NE universities, including several Ivy League members, and several NE prep schools, traditional clothing still reigns supreme. This also is true in Virginia at some universities, such as U.Va. or W&L, and several prep schools. It is not at all about “privilege”, but instead about values, frugality, and good taste. (YMMV)

      It really does save money in the long run to have a smaller, well selected, and high quality wardrobe. It is much more expensive to chase “fashion”.

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    2. L.L. Bean was only collaterally "preppy." Normal working class New Englanders (and outdoors people in general) have been wearing it for many decades. That's not "white privilege," it's outdoors-oriented clothing. Bean hasn't been "preppy" for a very, very, very long time.

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  10. The fact is that L.L. Bean has reneged on a guarantee.
    That speaks of their (lack of) integrity.
    I can understand why they took the action.
    The stuff they have been selling for at least the last decade is shoddy, and it doesn't last.
    If they are going to have this policy, it should only apply to items purchased after the change of policy.
    Would you return to a car dealership where you were offered free oil changes as long as you owned the vehicle, and a year or two later, they said too bad.
    I probably own fewer Bean items than the average Saltwater reader, and I have never returned anything.
    The fact that the company is not keeping their word is the reason I will never make another purchase from them.

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    1. Because the readers of this blog would never abuse the lifetime policy, I think it's difficult to realize the extent to which others have. There was an article in the WaPo yesterday and the author cheerfully admitted that he'd bought a pair of shoes once and returned faithfully every year for years to have them replaced.

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  11. I just noticed, reading over the new policy, that the one year window for returns that L.L.Bean is now promoting as the new fair and square isn't even an honest statement:

    "To protect all our customers and make sure that we handle every return or exchange with reasonable fairness, we cannot accept a return or exchange (even within one year of purchase) in certain situations, including products showing excessive wear and tear" (Among other caveats.)

    Just wow. So items with premature fraying, shrinking, etc prior to one year of ownership will not be refunded or exchanged.

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    1. I messaged L.L.Bean on Facebook:

      Could you please comment on this caveat in your new one year return policy: "To protect all our customers and make sure that we handle every return or exchange with reasonable fairness, we cannot accept a return or exchange (even within one year of purchase) in certain situations, including: Products showing excessive wear and tear." I have had to return items to you within the past year due to excessive fraying and/or clothing falling apart within months of purchase without any abuse and following washing instructions on the labels. Of course my returns were cheerfully exchanged. What would happen now? How will you determine that excessive wear and tear is due to abuse vs poor manufacturing?

      Their response:

      Good morning Averyl. We still stand behind our products. That hasn't changed, and our return policy remains one of the best in the industry. If you are dissatisfied with an item, you can return it or exchange it within one year with proof of purchase. After one year we will accept a return if an item proves to be defective due to materials or craftsmanship. Your return of products due to fraying or item coming apart are still covered. The change will put an end to folks annually returning worn slippers and bookpacks for replacement and will not change our willingness to accept legitimate returns of defective items. We hope you will remain a loyal customer and look forward to doing business with you in the future. ^svb

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  12. You might want to compare the return and exchange policies of Target, the Gap, Old Navy, Vineyard Vines, Talbot's and Orvis with the new Bean parameters.

    The era is different, the clientele is different, and the product is different. "Lifetime replacement" does not make sense to any modern business model I can imagine--precisely because of the ways people will inevitably abuse it. And even as silly first-world "problems" go, this one is a ripple in a demitasse cup, folks. I'd be one hell of a lot more concerned about Bean (or anyone else!) putting "tracking sensors" in the clothing and shoes they sell (though Bean has now walked back this rumor).

    Buy Quoddy, Lotuff, Barbour, J. Press and patronize bespoke tailors in the US and UK if you want the old "lifetime" level of quality. The fact remains that very few either need that, or are willing to pay what it's truly worth.

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    1. Be careful about Barbour. All is not what it seems or what you think or are accustom to. Things are changing.....PA

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    2. True about Barbour. My jacket I saved for years to buy was made in Indonesia.... Outsourcing like everyone else.

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  13. I think what everyone really needs to admit is that the majority L.L. Bean's products are not very good quality. The only reason people buy them today is out of nostalgia and, what was, their return policy. If you want USA made, high quality items, spend the extra money for them and stop complaining about what L.L. Bean "used to be".

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    1. Perhaps a useful thread woukd be to list those remaining high-quality manufacturers, whether in US, Uk, CA, or elsewhere.

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    2. Jacob Shields: Is that a Burnese Mountain dog in your picture?

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  14. Really, I don't understand all the hate directed at Bean.

    They were getting raked over the coals by unscrupulous individuals who were buying up used Bean products at Goodwill and yard sales and then returning them. A lot of you New England Yankees like to brag about how thrifty you are; surely you weren't going to try to return your twenty-year-old Bean sweater for a new one, so why be angry at Bean? I think their one year return policy is still generous.

    No one here ever talks about why Bean had to move to overseas vendors. Because manufacturing in the US is too damn expensive. You can certainly source and produce clothing here, but the average individual is not going to be able to afford it and that's who these companies depend on for profits. There aren't enough buyers for overpriced goods anymore. The vast majority of Americans aren't getting raises and haven't been for years so what do you expect? Blame corporate greed, blame corporate boards and executives who won't pay their workers enough to keep up with inflation and be able to afford decent things, blame greedy shareholders, blame those who engage in the shameless exploitation of poor people overseas. But don't blame your fellow countrymen who cannot afford expensive US based clothing and lay off those of us who don't live on the East coast. Such narrow-minded prejudice against your fellow Americans is what is making this country such a mess -- not everyone in the Midwest, the South, and the Great Plains can be painted with the same brush that some of the previous commenters have used.

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    1. Oh, how melodramatic. Let's just keep it real and remember that "L.L.Bean Signature" isn't the realist of "your fellow countrymen who cannot afford expensive US based clothing," it's the result of tacky people who are addicted to consumption, and people who are happy with inferior goods as long as they're cheap. That's where America is at right now. It's sort of non-negotiable.

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    2. Products were sourced overseas because American manufacturing was systematically and intentionally destroyed. Production moved to foreign countries where manufacturing investments were already made by the companies and other interests who were dismantling the American plants and shipping them out. No environmental regulations, no unions, no worker's comp, no pensions, no health insurance. And Americans became addicted to three dollar sneakers and ten dollar pants, even if they lasted only one season, because the margins were astronomical compared to the products produced in America by our neighbors who earned a living making them. We sold our neighbors out for cheap Chinese crap, and now we lament that we were so short sighted as to have been fooled. Well, we were fooled. There is no post-industrial American economy filled with high tech jobs as we were promised. There were only "Welcome to Walmart" and "would you like fries with that" jobs to barely eke out a living to pay for our three dollar sneakers after the local manufacturing plant closed. We go took, and took good. No more for me. If it doesn't say "Made in U.S.A." I don't buy it.

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    3. Sounds similar to the situation in the UK where an 'it'll do' attitude to clothing has become the norm, and giant retail stores such as H&M and Primark are packed to the rafters with Far Eastern made tat to be devoured by retail hungry consumerists. Mention 'Made in England' here and you'll get the same reply from most - "oooh, too expensive". But that's only because they've ever known shirts for £12 and jumpers for £18.99. They wouldn't know real quality if it smacked them in the face. It's a race to the bottom and the majority have joined it. It's annoying that the brands I used to wear 20/25 years ago are a shadow of their former selves.

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  15. @2:21PM you mentioned a booze run.

    Is it here yet?

    Please, dear God, let it be here.

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    1. P.S. My comment above was not directed at any specific post. I was just done hearing about L.L.Bean. I stopped shopping there a while back, and since then I have chucked most everything I had bought previously because it was poor quality.

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  16. Oh just accept it. Their new business model is to sell you shoddy junk as cheaply as they can source it, and once you have bought it you are on your own. They don't care what you or I or anyone else thinks. They don't care about you. Why should you care about them?

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    1. What happens to L.L.Bean feels personal to a lot of locals. I know that sounds "melodramatic" (preemptively attacking myself), but when you live in Maine and have a long history with them, it's more than "stuff". However, I accepted it the end of last year before the latest nail in the coffin, but this brazen new world at Bean is shocking to me and worthy of loud lamentation. (I told you, drama.) :)

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    2. Read the quote from CEO McCormick. It's all there. The entire argument is there. It is based upon the assertion that the sole objective of a company is to make money. That assertion is simply false, and adopting it as the sole reason d'etre of any organization is the turning point that seals its doom. Look at the founder of any large producer, bet it Microsoft, Apple, Ford, Hewlett Packard, I don't care. Founders, other than hedge fund founders, were generally not motivated by a drive to get rich or make a profit. They were driven to invent something, to produce something, to furnish something that was new or that they thought they could do better. They believed in something, and it wasn't improved margins. What does current management (not just at LL Bean) believe in? On their death beds, what will they point to that they contributed? Higher margins? Increased earnings per share? All at the expense of quality and customer loyalty?

      The sole purpose of a company is not increased profit, no one's purpose in life is to make money, and the American dream has never been about getting rich. We've been lied to about all of those, and we believed it. Shame on us. We knew better. We all read it when we were children, but we forgot. We all know where the answer is. It's time we put our heads back on straight again.

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    3. Spoken with the passion and zeal of a true Manhattanite, Averyl. Well said.

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    4. Um, Dave at 2:40? CEO's have a legally enshrined MANDATE to make ANY corporation's primary objective profit, that is what the shareholders bought shares in order to do. In today's world of increasingly tight margins and cut-throat competition, that is still his legal obligation. All other matters are secondary. If a company's cultural capital aids that mission, all to the good. But if you don't make a profit, in a little while you're toast as CEO. I have popcorn ready for when that immutable reality collides with Elon Musk--he'd better start delivering more cars than excuses.

      Those who believe that corporations exist for social welfare, tradition, nostalgia or ANY other purpose besides profit, have been reading too much neo-Marxist propaganda.

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  17. Welcome to the new Gilded Age. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Outsourcing is older than anyone here. Production just didn't get moved overseas. It merely left New England. But the mill towns of the South aren't what they used to be either. There are still a few factories left here and there but their product lines now run to urban lumberjacks and really aren't for ordinary working men who buy their jeans at Walmart. I'm not referring to the ordinary working men who take the train in from Connecticut and work on Wall Street.

    But remember, if it isn't make where you live, it's imported. A high-quality garment from the U.K. is just as imported as the high-quality garment from Hong Kong, assuming that hasn't been outsourced to Vietnam. As for quality in products, also remember there is a huge market and always has been for cheap, low-quality products. The only difference is, we used to make it here instead of importing it.

    How many of you people lost your job because the factory where you work closed and production was sent somewhere else?

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  18. This is a reaction to the relationship many have or had with LL Bean. Loyal folks, eager to buy good quality, have been abandoned. No one likes to be dumped.

    Aiken

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  19. I remember a long time ago I saw the LLBean logo on a car and I was horrified. Looking it up online, it's mentioned as the Subaru Outback in 2000. I don't know whether that was the only one.

    In my own mind, that was a sort of pivotal point. I realized I'd been mistaken in my assessment of LLBean, and they were no different from any other company who would allow their logo to be slapped on any darn thing in an effort to scoop up profits from consumers who were fascinated by Brand Names.

    The absurdity of a LLBean car...! From a company who had been known for shoes and sweaters...!? I was confused and horrified.

    Now, there may have been a really good reason for that part of their history. It may have turned out to be a great move for them and they may have made excellent profits on it. I'm not judging them for their business decisions, and I'm not implying anything about their morality. I'm just saying that it didn't jive the image of a small, New England clothing manufacturer obsessed with quality.

    So I guess, since then, I've not been very surprised when LLB has made other decisions that belie their "still true to our origins" story. Things change; and change is frequently uncomfortable and surprising.

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  20. Lost in the kerfuffle over the change in return policy is the answer to this question: How many times did you need to return a defective LL Bean product that was more than a year old? I never have; my returns were due to the fact that I didn't care for something on initial inspection (e.g., color, fit). I have certainly worn out a good number of Bean products but never, to my mind, prematurely. So how many honest people will actually be affected by this change? Show of hands, please.

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    1. My husband bought a pair of the LL Bean shearling slippers at the same time I bought a pair of ugg shearling slippers. We wore them the exact same amount of time... his wore out completely (leather stitching coming apart/ lambswool worn through) within 6 months. LL Bean replaced them. The new pair? Same exact thing. Rather than go through another replacement we tossed them in the trash and bought him a pair of uggs. Two years later, his uggs are still going strong.

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    2. I bought a pair of LL Bean shearling slippers 4 months ago. The shearling is worn through. I am afraid to return them because of everything going on.

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    3. I had a similar thing with the slippers - had them replaced after 4 months when the stitching came apart the first time, now there is a hole where the upper is separating from the sole in the replacement (6 months). I only wear them inside the house. The shearling is almost completely worn.
      When I brought them to the store to have the first pair replaced, there was a big sign saying they would not replace the slippers if they appeared to be worn out from outdoor use. Can't imagine what they would look like from outdoor use, if the indoor wear was as bad as it is.
      Even if I could, I would not try to replace them again - the quality is really shoddy.

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  21. The only folks who should be upset with the new return policy are those who abused the old policy.

    They still will take back defective items - they just will not automatically take back everything that comes through the door.

    Quality of merchandise is a separate issue.

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  22. Frankly, I don’t think this is about the return policy at all. It’s about a relationship that folks have with a company that is changing and breaking.

    Aiken

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    1. Aiken's post from 12 Feb at 4:08 pm should be the Saltwater New England post of the year!

      It certainly expresses my feelings on the matter. I used the return policy once-- I had had a travel toiletry bag for a few years but had only used it lightly a handful of times-- and while on vacation in Maine the zipper popped off. I took it to the retail store in Freeport thinking it could be fixed, but instead they gave me a store credit and I got another one. I have used this other one much more, and if something happened to it I would just buy a new one as I feel I have gotten my money's worth. They also twice comped me products due to shipping errors on their part (I live overseas and they sent me the wrong sweater, despite the packaging labelling it as the ordered item/an open cardigan instead of the zip front-- they told me to just keep it and they sent the item that I ordered-- I did offer to send it in but they told me to keep it as the shipping would cost more than the item was worth--and more recently they comped me a small accessory after a snafu with their new order system.) I have always compared other companies to them, as they always made things right, stood behind their products, employed Maine people to work their phones, etc. Even from overseas I have spent quite a bit of money with them each year (products for me any my family, as well as gifts for relatives and friends), have recommended them to others, etc. It makes me sad that something that has been in place and worked since 1912 is no more. And that it feels like their new CEO is bringing in Wal-Mart type culture. I have always been willing to spend the extra money for products made right and with a company that would make things right if something happened.

      Also I found the tone of the letter that went out to customers to be offensive, as if all customers are out to take advantage of them.

      In addition what gets hidden in this is that they are now charging for orders under $50-- only free shipping on smaller orders if you have their credit card. For various reasons not everyone can have or wants that card-- anyway from my side it will discourage purchases because if I am buying, say, a smaller gift I would probably just get something else from somewhere else, and it will also discourage smaller impulse purchases which can add up.

      --EM

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  23. @Mad Dogs & Englishmen ---

    Out of curiosity, where are you happy to buy your clothing? I'd love to compare notes with a fellow Brit.

    My husband and I were having a heated "chat" just last night about the (absolute) state of things in England now. Our consumer culture and the lack of quality is frankly depressing. Patriotism extinct.

    We recently traded in our fancy, overpriced and built to fail Dyson for a trusty Henry as a start.

    I find it easier to find quality Empire household goods than clothing. Help!

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    1. I used to wear a lot of Jaeger and Burberry, mainly because my Dad worked in the textile industry many years ago and was in the know when it came to going direct to the factory shops. But those days are long gone.

      In recent years I've tried to add more Made in England items to my wardrobe from Barbour, Corgi, Pantherella, Common People, Tricker's, Joseph Cheaney, New Balance. I'm also trying to support independent makers using British fabrics; Harris Tweed and British Wool. I don't necessarily avoid British brands made in the Far East but it has to be well made using decent fabric. I avoid the big ubiquitous high street retailers; H&M, Primark, Topman, Burton etc.

      This is a decent website to have a look at - https://makeitbritish.co.uk/directory/

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  24. Class action lawsuit:

    https://www.courthousenews.com/end-of-ll-beans-lifetime-return-policy-spurs-class-action/

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  25. Stew Leonard Sr. once said: "You can only eat so many steaks and drive so many Cadillacs." Meaning, that even the consumption of people with great wealth should achieve a natural limit. I find I wear about 10% or less of my wardrobe, and having realized this I force myself to "shop my closet" before clicking on ANYTHING I think I "need." I also recently purged anything that was not likely to fit, was threadbare, stained, holed or faded. Now I can actually find my stuff, which actually fits, and I find that with 1/10 of what I owned at peak, I have MORE than enough.
    Those of you who aspire to being "green," or "sustainable," or even just Yankee thrifty which is the only claim I'll make, take heed . . .
    I always love it when ads urge you to "shop and SAVE!" No. You don't "SAVE!" when you shop. You SAVE when you keep your money in your wallet and buy nothing but necessities. Millennials, take heed . . . Amazing how much more fun life is when you're not broke and drowning in junk.

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    1. Please forgive me, but I can't help myself. Wasn't Stew,Sr. sent to the klink for forty-four months of a fifty-two month sentence for tax fraud---- and fined about a million dollars?

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    2. Yep! Got caught brief-casing a large pile of skimmed cash offshore; wonder if it was in a Lotuff? ;-) Got a little too smart for his own good, but he did his time long since and has been a free man now for many years. Another tragic story when Stew Leonard, Jr. lost his baby son in a swimming pool drowning. Shows to go, you're never so big that the laws don't apply to you--including and especially those of Nature. Sad cautionary tale . . .

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    3. He did spend that time in jail and was fined $950K. He skimmed money out of the cash registers to the tune of $17 million. He did this over 10 years to avoid paying taxes. I guess he never quite got to the point where "You can only eat so many steaks and drive so many Cadillacs."

      Aiken

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  26. About five years ago, I changed what I buy from the seductive lifestyle-oriented brands with the slick copy to the actual things that they were copying. So instead of buying Norwegian style sweaters, I bought actual Dale of Norway Sweaters; mostly vintage.

    In so doing, I gave up on most of LL Bean; not their Bean Boots that are wonderful, and some other random things. This change in their guarantee doesn't affect me, because I am sure that they would stand behind something defective and I have no desire to profit at their expense. We have all seen people taking advantage of their guarantee and there have been people making a business out of redeeming items found elsewhere for cash or credit at their stores.

    I changed my buying habits completely. I also started only buying statement pieces that actually added to my wardrobe and these would only come from my country, the US, and my wife's, the UK. So, I mostly buy Brooks Brothers suits made in Massachusetts and their ties, and Tweed suits, jackets, cords, khakis, Tattersall shirts, all from Cordings. I seek out artisanal sweaters from Ireland, Norway, and elsewhere.

    Instead of buying an item made in China with romantic copy, I seek out the real thing and it becomes part of my story.

    Some great brands that I have found: Cordings - I love this company so much and everyone who works there. They take such great care of me when I stop by.
    Guideboat - a great substitute for LL Bean. It has items with the same spirit, but they are much higher quality, usually made here, Canada, or the UK.
    Great Scott - wonderful and romantic Tweed. I bought my wife wonderful things from here.
    MacKenzie and George - great accessories and brooches.

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  27. All I know is this. While in college in New Haven in the early Seventies, one of the few remaining Prep Gods on campus wore Bean Boots with a smooth sole, no chain tread. They were light, sleek and extremely cool. I had to get a pair and I did. I too, for a while, dwelt in Olympus among the Prep Gods, we merry few, at the old Fence Club. Those shoes were effortlessly effective in telling the growing masses around us in those years "I am not like you, leave me alone". Wow, I get a little shaky just thinking about how incredibly powerful a pair of boots could be.

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  28. I’ve got to admit, the current Bean offerings do nothing for me. Having said that, I love and appreciate the comments here. I’ve taken to cleaningout my closet four times a year and scouring thrift stores for quality vintage gear.

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