Bean Boot mania, it seems, will not abate any time soon.
This year, however, there is some good news for fans of the unique rubber boot that is celebrated for its weatherproof qualities.
While the popular boot from outdoor retailer L.L. Bean is still sold out in popular sizes until next year, the waitlist is currently about 20,000, the company said. That’s down from 50,000 last year and 100,000 the year prior.
L.L. Bean spokesperson Mac MacKeever emphasised that the retail stores are better stocked than the website, and many alternative colours and sizes are still available.
This year, L.L. Bean says they’re making 3,000 pairs a day and will surpass 600,000 pairs sold this year — a new record. Over the past year, the factories in Maine that make the boots have been working nearly 24/7 — three shifts, six days a week — in an attempt to meet holiday demand. They have still fallen short despite their best efforts.
“It just keeps coming,” L.L. Bean bootstitcher Diane Lavallee told The Boston Globe last year, when the waitlist stretched to 50,000 people. “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.”
Part of the reason for the backlog is the shoe’s “it” status, combined with its laborious manufacturing process — which, for many of the boot’s components, is still done by hand.
“We realise we could outsource, but that will never happen,” McKeever told Bloomberg last year. “The boots have been hand-sewn in Maine by our own skilled boot workers, and they always will be.”
As part of its new plan to meet demand, L.L. Bean will be leasing a new factory to complement the existing two, and it will invest in another $1.2 million injection moulding machine that forms the rubber bottom of the boot. The company will hire an additional 100 staff to bring the total Bean Boot factory staff to around 600 — double what the staff was just three years ago.
The company’s goal is to be able to make 1 million pairs of Bean Boots a year by 2018.
“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? 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 $120, 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 requiring replacement.
After all, the fact that the boots are still hand-sewn in Maine at a reasonable price point is precisely the reason they’re in such high 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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