- Outdoor retail company L.L. Bean announced its first wholesaler partnership in the US with Nordstrom, Staples, and sporting-goods store Scheels.
- The partnerships were designed to provide customers new ways to access the brand’s apparel and footwear, the company said.
- The retailer’s backpacks and water bottles are already available at 1,000 Staples, and its apparel and footwear will be available in Nordstrom and Scheels this fall.
- The heritage brand has made cuts in the past few years, but its new strategy could help to bolster sales without the costs of opening new brick-and-mortar locations.
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Outdoor outfitter L.L. Bean is branching out from its traditional direct-to-consumer model with the announcement of the brand’s first wholesaler partnership in the US with Nordstrom, Staples, and sporting-goods store Scheels.
“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 in an email.
Hannah said that the new wholesale partnerships, which have been in the works for over a year, were “designed to provide new audiences, as well as our current customers, new ways to access our iconic apparel and footwear through third-party retail locations and online shops.”
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.
“Entering into wholesale partnerships comes down to who you trust with your customers,” Hannah said.
L.L. Bean, known for its flagship campus of stores in Freeport, Maine, and its robust catalogues, is already rolling out these partnerships.
According to the Associated Press, the retailer’s backpacks and water bottles are available in more than 1,000 Staples stores for the back-to-school shopping season.
This fall, Midwest sporting-goods chain Scheels said it would begin carrying core outdoor-focused L.L. Bean products like the brand’s popular Bean boots, as well as flannels, fleeces, and activewear.
Later in the fall and through the holiday season 20 Nordstrom stores will carry similar products as well.
L.L. Bean had success during the pandemic with sales of outdoor adventure equipment like camping gear, canoes, bikes and kayaks, and even outdoor furniture, Hannah said.
“We’re seeing more and more people turning to the outdoors for the many restorative benefits nature can provide – especially right now,” she added.
But the 108-year-old retailer has struggled in recent years.
In 2018, the company instituted a buyout plan to reduce its 5,000 full-time employees by 10% and ended its pension plan, according to the Bangor Daily News.
In 2019, employees didn’t receive annual bonuses for the first time in a decade, and in February of this year the retailer announced it would cut 200 more jobs and close its Lewiston, Maine, call centre in 2021. Employees at the centre have been offered similar positions at other office locations as well as the option to work from home.
The heritage brand’s new strategy could help bolster sales without any associated costs of opening new brick-and-mortar locations, and improve discovery of the brand through new channels, both in-store and online.
Of course many in-person retailers, including Nordstrom, are facing troubles of their own. and have been seeing declining foot traffic long before the pandemic. Nordstrom has had to close 19 stores in the past few months.
“Customer shopping preferences will continue to evolve and shift,” Hannah said.
“We think it’s important to evolve with them, ensuring we continue to meet our customers’ needs by making ourselves easily accessible in a variety of channels.”
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