L.L. Bean Goes Retail in Earnest

L.L. Bean announced this week that it plans to open its first Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania stores as it continues its brick-and-mortar expansion.

The first of several stores planned for Massachusetts will open this coming September in Burlington, about 20 miles northwest of Boston. Another store is slated to open in Center Valley, PA, near Allentown, in October, and a third, in South Windsor, CT (outside Hartford), in summer 2007. Additional store locations are planned for 2007 and 2008 in the greater Boston area.

The apparel, outdoor gear, and home furnishings merchant currently has five stores, in Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, and its hometown of Freeport, ME. The new stores will be similar in style and size to existing Bean stores–about 30,000 sq. ft. each, selling apparel and a selection of outdoor gear.

“It took us a long time to decide to go into retail outside of Freeport,” says spokesperson Rich Donaldson. “When we decided to move forward with our initial retail expansion plan in the late 1990s, we later realized that being competitive in the overall industry landscape required overall sustained growth. And we needed to be part of that landscape… When we started our expansion we knew we had a lot to learn in retail. Getting into the retail scene was much different from being a consumer-direct merchant—different operations, different competencies, a whole new way of thinking.”

The company is also planning major changes at its Freeport campus. Donaldson says the company has acquired property adjoining the flagship store and the hunting and fishing store, which will allow for additional retail space on Freeport’s Main Street. This will enable Bean to expand on its outdoor theme by incorporating green space and natural landscaping—including rocks, streams, waterfalls, and outdoor activity areas. According to president/CEO Chris McCormick, “These changes will significantly enhance the overall experience for L.L. Bean customers and represent tens of millions of dollars of new commercial investment in our hometown of Freeport.”

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