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October 9, 2020

L.L.Bean expands online reach in partnership with Zappos

Outside of L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport showing giant boot Courtesy / L.L.Bean Inc. Outside L.L.Bean's flagship store in Freeport.

On the heels of three new wholesale partnerships unveiled in July, L.L.Bean Inc. on Thursday announced that it's adding Las Vegas-based online site Zappos to the mix.

The companies are kicking off the collaboration with the sale of Bean's signature Bean Boots and Wicked Good Slippers this week, with plans to roll out several more products including outerwear, flannels and fleece.

Still fairly new to wholesaling, L.L.Bean also has partnerships with Framingham, Mass.-based nationwide office supply chain Staples; SCHEELS, a privately held, employee-owned sporting goods retailer based in Fargo, N.D., with 27 stores in 12 states and four more stores planned; and Seattle-based department store operator Nordstrom Inc. (NYSE: JWN), with more than 350 stores in 40 states.

Photo of Steve Smith, president and CEO of L.L.Bean, in front of L.L. Bean building showing company logo
Courtesy / L.L.Bean Inc.
Steve Smith, president and CEO of L.L.Bean.

Steve Smith, L.L.Bean's president and CEO, told Mainebiz in late July that the Freeport-based outdoor gear and apparel manufacturer and retailer was testing its way into wholesaling and that it had been on an omni-channel selling strategy for some time.

He also said that after experimenting with wholesaling in Japan and a distribution agreement with Toronto-based Jaytex Group launched last year, L.L.Bean had been "wanting to expand carefully, and in a small way."

Zappos’s roots go back to 1999, when founder Nick Swinmurn couldn't find brown Airwalk Desert Chukka boots and started to serve customers who resorted to catalogs and mail orders for the shoes they wanted but couldn’t find. The name of the site was soon changed to as play on "zapatos," the Spanish word for shoes. 

Zappos was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. Tony Hsieh, one of the early investors and Zappos CEO for 21 years, resigned in August. COO Kedar Deshpande was promoted to CEO. 

Today, Zappos sells more than1,000 brands of shoes, clothing and other products shipped for free. The company is headquartered in downtown Las Vegas in the former City Hall office building it renovated "to look less like government and more like tech."

'Brand values deeply align'

Karlyn Mattson, general manager of merchandise strategy at Zappos, told Mainebiz her company began talks with L.L.Bean earlier this year "and knew right away there wasn't a more perfect brand to be partnering with." 

"Our customers have wanted L.L.Bean on Zappos for some time," she added. "On top of that, our two brand values deeply align, with a shared focus on the environment and outdoors, doing good, family and inclusivity."

Asked about the niche her company aims to fill with the partnership, Mattson said, "L.L.Bean is such a versatile brand that I wouldn't place them into one bucket ... We truly love their full product line, which expands across multiple categories, ultimately serving the entire family with an inclusive sizing focus."

She also said it's serendipitous to bring L.L.Bean onboard at a time when customers want to spend more time at home in comfortable clothing or outdoors.

Both are trending up nationwide during the pandemic, as reflected in stronger consumer spending in outdoor recreation.

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