L.L. Bean leaning toward Canada

In continuing its international expansion plans, L.L. Bean has its sights set north of the border.

Zane Shatzer, general manager of international new market development for the apparel, outdoor gear, and home goods merchant, says that Bean’s Canadian sales have grown 30% during the past three years, even though the company doesn’t produce a dedicated catalog or Website for the country. “Canada has always been an important market to us,” Shatzer says.

Freeport, ME-based Bean is going to assess how direct marketing and retailing are conducted in Canada and review which products have been most popular in that market. Bean aims to “take a comprehensive look at the market and do due diligence,” Shatzer says.

Bean will also look at its expansion into Japan as a potential blueprint for Canada, says Shatzer. For example, the company’s research on the Japanese market, which it entered in the early 1990s, showed that hiking was a popular hobby there. So Bean made products for hiking a higher priority in that market.

Bean’s plans for Canada include adding a Website with a “.ca” domain name, an in-country version of its print catalogs, and further down the road, a bricks-and-mortar presence, Shatzer says. The company is also looking to expand its retail presence in Latin America and in Asian countries outside of Japan, he says.

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L.L. Bean Leaning Toward Canada

In continuing its international expansion plans, apparel, sporting gear, and home goods cataloger L.L. Bean has its sights set north of the border.

Zane Shatzer, L.L. Bean’s general manager of international new market development, said that a 30% increase in sales in Canada during the past three years has the Freeport, ME-based company looking into potential growth there. “Canada has always been an important market to us. It’s been a successful market, one that is making money,” Shatzer says.

Though the Canada market is similar to the upper third of the U.S. when it comes to climate, L.L. Bean will do an assessment of how business is conducted in Canada, and look at what product selections have been most popular in that market.

Shatzer says L.L. Bean would look at what it has done with its expansion in Japan as a potential blueprint for Canada. For example, the company’s research on the Japanese market, which the merchant entered in the early 1990s, showed that hiking is a popular hobby there. So Bean made products for hiking a higher priority in that market.

With Canada, “we really want to take a comprehensive look at the market, and do due diligence,” Shatzer said. L.L. Bean’s plans include a .ca domain name, as well as an in-country catalog and, further down the road, a bricks and mortar presence, Shatzer says. The company is also looking to expand its retail store presence in Latin America and other Asian countries, he says.

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Being prepared for the holiday rush used to mean stocking shelves and making sure your associates were ready for the long hours. But the digital revolution has changed everything, most importantly, customer expectations. Retailers with a physical store presence should be asking themselves—what am I doing to wow the customer?
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