L.L. Bean: Free Shipping For All, Again

L.L. Bean has again thrown down the free holiday shipping gauntlet rather early in the season: The outdoor gear and apparel merchant will begin offering free shipping and handling to all customers beginning on Sept. 28 and running through Dec. 21, with no minimum purchase required.

Part of the reason for L.L. Bean’s generosity is its strong spring. For the season, which closed Aug. 31, the Freeport, ME-based merchant’s sales were up 8% over last spring. To recognize the stellar performance–and to celebrate its 95th anniversary–the company announced the free shipping offer on Sept. 27. What’s more, Bean’s board of directors approved a cash recognition gift to all eligible employees, a payout of about $1 million.

But for the most part, it’s likely that Bean is offering free holiday shipping so early in the season because it knows the strategy works like a charm. The company surprised the catalog industry in 2005 when it announced on Oct. 21 it would offer free shipping throughout the holiday season.

The promotion helped L.L. Bean ring in record sales that year. The cataloger did not offer free shipping last year; not only did the results not match 2005 numbers, but Bean also did not meet its sales goals.