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Updated: March 18, 2024

LLBean posts sales dip for 2023 amid retail headwinds, trims employee bonuses

Photo / Renee Cordes L.L. Bean said it hired more than 2,800 seasonal employees in 2023 to meet peak holiday season demand.

Citing difficulties faced by other outdoor specialty retailers, L.L.Bean Inc. said its 2023 sales dipped to $1.7 billion from $1.8 billion in 2022, and announced a lower employee bonus rate.

“2023 was a challenging year across the outdoor specialty retail industry, and we were not immune to the headwinds,” said Stephen Smith, president and CEO of the Freeport-based maker and seller of outdoor gear and apparel. “However, we are encouraged by the return on our omnichannel investments and the momentum that has created.”

“We’re grateful for our customers, who, despite the challenges posed by downward economic forces, again showed unwavering trust and loyalty in L.L.Bean,” he added.

Alongside the revenue drop, the company said its board of directors approved a performance bonus of 9% of annual pay for L.L.Bean's 5,600 employees, consisting of a 5% cash bonus and a 4% 401(k) contribution. That’s down from a 13.5% bonus last year.

Global workforce

In 2023, L.L.Bean invested almost $75 million in employee benefits, wage increases, bonuses, 401(k) contributions and enhancements, and holiday gifts.

In addition to its regular workforce in Maine, Costa Rica, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the company said it hired more than 2,800 seasonal employees last year to meet peak holiday season demand.

“After record-breaking years fueled by pandemic buying trends, 2023 missed the company’s budget goals and sales were down slightly year-over-year,” the company said in Friday's press release. “However, in the face of significant headwinds across U.S. retail, L.L.Bean navigated supply chain challenges and ensured steady inventory and timely fulfillment, including during the critical peak holiday season."

The company also noted its continued investment in its omnichannel growth strategy, including the opening of four retail stores in the United States and Canada, bringing the total to 58 stores in North America and 13 in Canada.

Closer to home, the company is in the midst of a $50 million Freeport flagship campus revamp following last year's $110 million maker of its corporate headquarters.

Additionally in 2023, L.L.Bean said it launched a French-language e-commerce site for Canadian customers, integrated in-store and e-commerce product distribution options (such as buy online, pick up in store), introduced new wholesale partnerships, and expanded mobile selling experiences.

Wholesale partnerships

The company expanded wholesale partnerships last year with Texas-based Academy Sports + Outdoors, Little Rock, Ark.-based retailer Dillard’s, Madison Heights, Mich.-headquartered Moosejaw and 10 independent outdoor specialty stores. With those addition, L.L.Bean products are now in more than 100 new storefronts and e-commerce platforms.

Bean product categories that did well in 2023 include outwear, sweaters and denim. The company wouldn't disclose exact sales figures for its products, but said sales of men’s utility outerwear increased 100%, sales of women’s 207 Vintage Jeans grew 138% and sales of men’s Heritage Soft Cotton Sweaters were up 102%.

L.L.Bean also said it contributed $5.7 million to outdoor and community-based nonprofit organizations in 2023.

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