L.L. Bean lays off three execs; more to follow

Following a sales decline of more than 3% last year, L.L. Bean said on Jan. 4 that it had laid off two vice presidents and one director. The outdoor gear and apparel cataloger wouldn’t disclose the names or titles of those laid off, but it did say that it plans significantly more job cuts among middle and upper management by the end of January, when Bean’s fiscal year ends. The marketing and merchandising departments will be the hardest hit. No hourly fulfillment workers are expected to get the axe.

While Freeport, ME-based Bean has yet to determine the eventual total layoff toll, the Portland (ME) “Press Herald” reported that some employees said that number could reach 200, the largest layoff at Bean since the company pink-slipped 350 workers in 1995. But Bean spokesperson Rich Donaldson insists that rather than being a “kneejerk reaction” to slow fall/holiday sales, the layoffs are part of a companywide reorganization that was begun three years ago. The goal of the job cuts, he says, are to eliminate duplication of efforts and streamline functions.

“We’re going about a process that stands to impact people and head count,” Donaldson says. “We’re going through a process of aligning people and their jobs. It’s an ongoing evoluationary process for a company like Bean that has matured and that’s looking to continue top-line growth while maintaining productivity.” He adds that as part of Bean’s 1999 restructuring, the company had planned to do a three-year organizational review. At the time, “we didn’t know if it was going to be a tune-up or a more significant overhaul. This case falls somewhere in between.”

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