Outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean is expanding on its traditional direct-to-consumer model with the brand’s first U.S. wholesaler partnership. Nordstrom, Staples and sporting-goods store Scheels will now offer L.L. Bean product.
“We are not pivoting away from our direct-to-consumer business model,” Amanda Hannah, L.L. Bean’s director of public relations, told Business Insider.
Rather, the Maine-based retailer believes its products are underrepresented in the marketplace and that there’s an opportunity to expand while other retailers contract, said Charlie Bruder, vice president for merchandising. Currently, L.L. Bean’s 54 locations are primarily located in New England and the Atlantic region. The brand hopes these new wholesale partnerships will make their products more available to customers outside of those areas.
The first phase started with L.L. Bean backpacks and water bottles that went on sale in more than 1,000 Staples stores two weeks ago. In the fall, L.L. Bean gear will be sold in a half-dozen SCHEELS stores in the Midwest and in 20 Nordstrom stores across the U.S. Nordstrom will offer classics such as the famous Bean Boot, fleece and flannel, both in the stores, and online.
The move is not unprecedented for the 108-year-old retailer: L.L. Bean inked an agreement in 2018 to sell products in Sporting Life, Hudson’s Bay and Mountain Equipment Co-Op stores in Canada. The company also reached an agreement three years ago to expand sales in Japan beyond company-branded stores.
L.L.Bean has dealt with flat sales and a difficult era of belt-tightening that included a previous reduction in workforce, a tightening of its generous return policy, and a paring of product lines. Sales dipped 3% last year to about $1.5 billion for the privately owned company.
During the pandemic, L.L. Bean closed its stores temporarily, but its online and catalog sales thrived with strong sales of comfort items like slippers in March, outdoor furniture and hammocks in April, and bikes, kayaks and canoes in May, said Hannah