Will wholesaling change L.L.Bean for the better?
L.L.Bean’s heritage has always been selling its clothing and other outdoor gear in the U.S. directly to consumers, beginning with its very first mailer in 1912 and expanding through the years to include its website and standalone stores. That is about to change with the news that Bean has signed wholesale agreements to supply its own brand products to Nordstrom, Staples and the Scheels sporting goods chain.
The first destination for Bean’s products was Staples. The office supplies store has already begun selling Bean-brand backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles in about a thousand of its stores and on Staples.com.
Nordstrom will begin selling the Bean Boot and other items identified with the L.L.Bean brand in about 20 stores in the fall as well as online. About a half-dozen Scheels locations in the Midwest will also carry Bean products as the seasons change.
Charlie Bruder, vice president of merchandising for Bean, told The Associated Press that his company sought out retail trading partners with similar business philosophies to its own. He pointed to Nordstrom and Scheels as two companies with traditions of customer service that mirror Bean’s business focus.
Bean’s move into wholesaling doesn’t mean that it is abandoning its core business. While online sales have performed well in the pandemic, Mr. Bruder sees Bean’s standalone stores as a difference maker.
“When people come into our stores, our staff is incredible. There’s no substitute for that,” he said. “We want to continue to have a thoughtful expansion plan.”
Yesterday, Bean announced that it will open three new stores under its banner in the Canadian province of Ontario before the end of the year. The stores are part of a partnership that Bean signed with Toronto-based Jaytex Group in 2018. The deal included wholesale distribution, a dedicated website and standalone stores. Bean products have been sold in a variety of Canadian third-party stores, including Hudson’s Bay, Mountain Equipment Co-Op and Sporting Life.
The Bean brand had a history of strong consumer-direct sales in Canada before making the move north with Jaytex. The company first launched a Canadian website two years ago before opening its first store in the country last year. Bean decided to open three new stores instead of two this year after the initial response from Canadian consumers, even during the pandemic downturn, was stronger than anticipated.
- L.L. Bean to sell products through other retailers – The Associated Press/Portland Press Herald
- An Inside Look at an Outdoor Icon – L.L.Bean
- L.L.Bean Announces Retail Expansion with Three New Stores Opening in Canada This Year – L.L.Bean
- Will L.L.Bean find success in Canada where others have failed? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see wholesale relationships with other U.S. retailers as a positive or negative for L.L.Bean’s brand and business overall? What will be the keys to Bean effectively managing the balance between its standalone and wholesale businesses?