Freeport, ME—Less than years after launching women’s apparel catalog Freeport Studio, general merchandise giant L.L. Bean plans to fold the book. The January 2002 issue will be the title’s last. The Freeport Studio call center, which is separate from the L.L. Bean call center, will remain open until mid-spring.
Cindy Marshall, who was instrumental in Freeport’s launch and is now vice president of marketing at Cranston, RI-based tabletop and jewelry cataloger Ross-Simons, says she was completely surprised when she heard the news on Oct. 5. By her estimate, Freeport Studio was profitable and “just reaching its peak.” She adds that the closing wasn’t directly related to the downturn in the economy or the Sept. 11 attacks.
Since word got out about the closing, some have speculated that Bean will try to incorporate some of the Freeport Studio line into its existing catalogs. But Marshall, for one, thinks that may be difficult. The Freeport Studio apparel, which targets active suburban women ages 35-55, is more fashion-forward and less casual than the rest of Bean’s women’s clothing. What’s more, Marshall says, the company had taken great pains to differentiate Freeport Studio as its own brand.
But another catalog industry veteran, who wishes not to be identified, disagrees. “Freeport’s never really differented themselves from the L.L. Bean brand,” says the source, who adds that it violated the “be first or be different” rule; instead it was highly reminiscent, according to the source, of such mailers as J. Jill.
L.L. Bean headquarters were closed on Oct. 8 for Columbus Day, so calls to the company were not returned by press time.