L.L. Bean Sales Up 9%

Freeport, ME-based L.L. Bean reported a 9% rise in annual net sales, to a record $1.4 billion for fiscal 2004. The outdoor gear and apparel merchant also reported acquiring a record number of new customers.

Because of the company’s solid sales performance, the board of directors approved a 12.5% bonus for nearly 4,700 eligible employees. Any employee who worked a minimum of 1,000 hours in the 2004 calendar year and who was actively employed through December 2004 will receive the performance bonus. Nearly 5,600 seasonal employees who worked through the end of the peak season will receive a $150 cash award.

Bean’s announcement did not come without warning. “Our ability to achieve these results is ever more challenging and coming at an increasing cost,” president/CEO Chris McCormick said in a release. “We continue to operate in a price deflationary retail environment, which puts significant pressure on margins and operations. As a result, we are spending more marketing dollars than ever to drive unit sales while making considerable investments in new technologies and marketing initiatives to deliver future sales growth. The retail business climate is very competitive.”

Looking forward, Bean will add six retail stores in the next two years, beginning with a conversion of an existing factory store in West Lebanon, NH, this year. The stores are planned for the New England/mid-Atlantic region.

Bean is plans to invest in upgrading the speed and capacity of its Website and in improving its customer service technology, retail point-of-service systems, and customer database capabilities.

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