It’s déjà vu for Bean Boot fans.
The popular heritage boot from outdoor retailer L.L. Bean is already sold out, and more than 50,000 people are on the wait list, according to The Boston Globe.
The waiting list started back in September and has only grown since then.
“It just keeps coming,” Diane Lavallee, a bootsticher at the factory, told the Globe. “We feel bad. People are waiting, and we want to please our customers. It’s just crazy, and I’ve never seen it like this before.”
Some boot styles won’t be delivered until February if ordered now, and almost all of them won’t arrive until after the holiday season.
Bean Boot loyalists will remember that this same situation happened last year, when L.L. Bean had a backlog of 100,000 boot orders to get through and didn’t deliver the goods until summer. Since last year’s shortage was so widespread, many consumers ordered boots in the off-seasons, and the company never had any downtime to stockpile inventory, they said.
Part of the reason for this backlog is the shoe’s sudden “it” status, combined with its laborious manufacture process — which, for many of the boot’s components, is still done by hand.
“They’re all over college campuses and high schools,” L.L. Bean spokeswoman Carolyn Beem told Boston.com last year. “Without changing anything, they’re back in style.”
Why are the 100-year-old boots so popular now? There are a few reasons:
- Legacy products are hot right now. Consumers — especially millennials — connect to the product’s history and bulletproof track record. The Bean Boot dates back to 1911, when brand founder Leon Leonwood Bean sold his Maine Hunting Shoe, which the Bean Boot descended from.
- A slightly goofy aesthetic is back in style. The all-American boots fall into the still-going-strong “normcore” trend that’s popular among young urbanites. It’s also a super-distinctive style that everyone can and will recognise on your foot.
- The boots are an incredible value. The most basic model is only $US99, and it comes with L.L. Bean’s unconditional satisfaction guarantee, meaning you can return the boots at any time for virtually any reason.
- Speaking of bulletproof, that’s exactly what Bean Boots are. They’re known to be completely flawless from a functionality perspective. Many owners see the boots perform for decades without replacement.
L.L. Bean sold 450,000 pairs of Bean Boots last year. This year, with ramped-up production, they plan to sell more than 500,000. But the boots are still handmade by less than 500 craftsman in L.L. Bean’s two factories in Maine. Two hundred additional boot makers have been hired on over the last two years, and the company has invested in a $US1.2 million moulding injection machine to make its rubber soles faster.
An additional $US800,000 in equipment to speed up the process is also on order, and 45 more workers will be hired between now and next September. The factories work around the clock and can pump out 2,200 pairs of Bean Boots a day — and it’s still not enough.
“We realise we could outsource, but that will never happen,” L.L. Bean spokesman Mac McKeever told Bloomberg. “The boots have been hand-sewn in Maine by our own skilled boot workers, and they always will be.”
After all, the fact that the boots are still hand-sewn in Maine at a reasonable price point is precisely the reason they’re so in demand. Though the scarcity may be sending some customers to less in-demand brands, it certainly hasn’t hurt the Bean Boot, NPD Group chief retail analyst Marshal Cohen told the Globe.
“It adds to the lore and the beauty of getting the boot,” Cohen said. “It’s the smartest strategy you can possibly employ.”
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