Despite temporary long-term store closures and many Americans being housebound for a good part of last year, L.L. Bean reported robust sales Friday.
As millions in the U.S. are increasingly heading outdoors after months of isolation, L.L. Bean is seeing record net revenue, thanks to those outdoor enthusiasts. Announcing its 2020 fiscal-year results, the company has racked up its largest net revenue increase in nine years — reaching $1.59 billion — a 5 percent rise over 2019.
While many retailers have furloughed or axed workers — Nike pink-slipped an undisclosed number of employees Thursday — L.L. Bean offered a performance bonus of 10 percent to 4,600 eligible employees. (The Freeport, Maine-based company wasn’t alone in that camp in the outdoor industry. The 30-unit Houston-based retailer Sun & Ski gave its employees gratitude bonuses of $250 to $1,500 in recognition of their work in the pandemic.)
L.L. Bean chief executive officer Stephen Smith noted: “Despite retail locations being closed for 10 weeks, thanks to our dedicated teams and our omnichannel advancements, we were still able to provide customers with the apparel, goods and gear they needed, whether for inside comforts or outside connections.”
L.L. Bean has also offered staffers an additional 401(k) contribution of 8 percent. In total, the company invested $72 million in employee benefits, including $10 million for extended pay for time off and increased pay for front-line workers.
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In highlighting its banner year, L.L. Bean flagged interest in such equipment categories as an 83 percent jump in water sports, a 49 percent hike in winter sports, a 23 percent increase in hunting and a 20 percent uptick in snow and rain boots. Traditionally known as a retailer and online business, the company launched wholesale partnerships for the first time in its 108-year history. It also introduced its first collaboration with men’s wear designer Todd Snyder.
The company’s statistics look like a sociological time capsule of the last year. Outdoor furniture sales were up 97 percent, backyard games jumped 65 percent, sleepwear grew 54 percent and sweatshirts and pants increased by 36 percent. Another strong category was slippers, which strengthened by 42 percent with one pair being sold every minute. In its overly jolly earnings report, the company said it had its strongest holiday season in more than 20 years (which it defines as the peak from November to December.)
To accommodate shoppers, the company periodically offered pop-ups in 25 cities that attracted 15,000 customers. It also opened four stores in Canada. Through wholesale deals with Nordstrom, Scheels, Staples and Zappos, L.L. Bean was made available in 1,200 more stores.
Building for the future, the company has donated $6 million to more than 100 outdoor and community organizations. In a partnership with the National Wildlife Federation, L.L. Bean also started “Green Hour,” a six-month program with 48 activities to encourage children to replace screen time with green time. Company employees were also given time to get a little more fresh air. More than 10,000 paid hours were spent alfresco, during L.L. Bean Outdoor Experience Days.
As the outdoor industry has been criticized for not being more inclusive, L.L. Bean unveiled Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programming. The company said it audited all practices and has invested in organizations that are trying to advance racial equity and workplace diversity.
As has become more routine with other major companies like Nike Inc., Gap Inc. and VF Corp., L.L. Bean is touting 2025 goals like using 100 percent responsible cotton for its cotton products and 100 percent recycled polyester for its apparel. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in its U.S. owned and controlled facilities by 50 percent is another target.
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