L.L. Bean admitted this week that some styles and sizes of its popular duck boots are already on back order, according to Bloomberg Business reporter Kim Bhasin.
The news is not a major surprise given that last season the company had 100,000 back orders and sold 450,000 pairs of boots. But this year, L.L. Bean added new machinery, more employees, and an added work shift in preparation to sell around 500,000 boots this year.
It wasn’t enough — if you order your pair today you probably won’t see them until February.
The boots have been a cold and wet winter staple since their debut in 1912, but over the last 3 years the company has seen a meteoric rise in popularity as the practical footwear surged into fashion and cultural dominance. While last year the company sold 450,000 boots, just a few years only 150,000 were sold, according to Quartz.
So why are we obsessed with the L.L. Bean duck boot?
The “Pinterest Effect”
Just like Pumpkin Spice Lattes and North Face jackets, the L.L. Bean boots are the final touch of the mainstream preppy Fall uniform. Pinterest is saturated with pictures of women and men wearing the boots with sweaters, jeans, leggings, and scarves surrounded by fall foliage and camp fires.
It’s essentially free advertising for the company on a platform that can majorly influence consumer behaviour. In 2013, nearly 50% of female Pinners and 37% of male Pinners made a purchase based on Pinterest recommendations. And with hundreds of thousands of duck boot Pins and approximately 28% of adult internet users on Pinterest, according to the Pew Research Center, the site is likely having a major effect on Bean Boot sales.
The boots are playing hard-to-get — and it’s working
Even though L.L. Bean tried to anticipate the demand for the boots this year, they will still be fighting against “psychological reactance,” or the concept that people will immediately want what they can’t have.
Basically, because these boots are suddenly on backorder and extremely hard to get, our freedom to choose between L.L. Bean’s boots and an alternative brand is suddenly gone. So if all your friends are hashtagging #BeanBoots on Instagram and you suddenly can’t buy them, psychologically you may realise you “need” them since your freedom of choice has been threatened.
Bean Boots are a “Legacy Product“
L.L. Bean has been making its duck boots since founder Leon Leonwood Bean himself invented them in 1912. They fast became a necessity for hunters with the signature hand-stitched leather tops and practical rubber bottoms, but surprisingly, they also became a fashion staple.
When “The Official Preppy Handbook” was published in 1980, the “Main Hunting Shoes” as they were then called had become the second most important shoe for a man to own, according to The New York Times. They became iconic and their legacy status instills a sense of trust and loyalty in consumers.
Even though they’re currently unattainable, they’re still affordable
L.L. Bean’s boots are made by hand in Maine and range from $US99 for the base model to around $US200 and come with an unconditional satisfaction guarantee. The website reviews are seldom below 5 stars and customers say they have had their boots for years without any incident. For many owners, the boots are a one-time purchase that’s more than worth the money.
Plus, compared to alternative duck boot options, L.L. Bean’s price point is still unmatchable.
So with a combination of a trusted brand name, solid price point, and free online advertising, it’s not surprising these boots are already on backorder.
Unless your size is still available, you’ll have to wait until February to get a pair, or potentially next June when they go back on sale.
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