L.L. Bean to Lay Off 200 to 240 Workers

L.L. Bean, the Freeport-ME-based apparel, outdoor gear and home goods cataloger, plans to lay off 200 to 240 workers due to declining sales, according to the Associated Press.

L.L. Bean notified the affected employees on Friday. In a letter to its 5,400 full- and part-time workers, company president/CEO Chris McCormick said voluntary retirement incentives announced in February have helped reduce the number of layoffs, but weren’t enough to preclude job reductions.

Earlier this month, the company announced that all but 50 of the 250 workers at the Bangor, ME-based call center would be furloughed—or out of work temporarily—starting in May due to an “extended lack of work” program.

Last month the privately held company revealed that revenue for its fiscal year ended in February totaled $1.5 billion, a 7.8% drop from last year. This marks only the third annual drop in revenue since 1960. L.L. Bean warned employees of potential layoffs just before Christmas.

L.L. Bean spokesperson Carolyn Beem could not be reached for comment, but she told the Associated Press the company anticipates about a dozen layoffs at retail and outlet stores in other states, and the layoffs will occur over the next few weeks and will affect both salaried and hourly employees. Some full-time workers will be offered part-time jobs.

McCormick’s letter says the latest revenue losses have put pressure on the company’s gross margin, forcing the need to control expenses. “The decision to eliminate jobs in this economy that is already posing such hardships on so many families did not come easy,” he wrote.

“We have explored a number of other alternatives and implemented many,” the letter continues. “However, our hope for a significant turnaround in business in the next 18 months that could return our revenue to pre-recession levels is just not realistic.”

Stuart Rose, a managing director with Wellesley, MA-based investment firm Tully & Holland, isn’t surprised by the news. “Laying off 240 workers or even 500 in a firm with 5,400 workers, when sales are down 7%, isn’t earth shattering,” he says. “I think it’s a normal reaction to the slowdown in the economy. More serious is his assertion that it will be a slow recovery.”

Lee Helman, a managing director with New York-based investment firm Financo, agrees: “Sign of the times. All retailers/catalogers are faced with the lagging sales issue, and they have to become leaner and reduce their fixed overhead to survive.”

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