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Updated: March 22, 2021

LLBean reports 2020 revenue boom, issues double-digit employee bonus

Photo / William Hall Shoppers on Sunday enjoyed warm weather as they strolled the L.L.Bean campus in Freeport.

Freeport retailer L.L.Bean Inc. on Friday reported that revenue in 2020 soared 5% above the previous year's level, and awarded employees a bonus not seen in a decade.

Net revenue for 2020 was $1.59 billion, according to a news release, as the outdoor goods company benefited from pandemic-driven buying. With consumers seeking safe forms of recreation, revenue from sales of water sports equipment skyrocketed 83% from a year earlier, the company said. Winter sports equipment sales jumped 49%.

“This past year redefined our lives in many ways, and our company’s purpose took on new importance as a record number of people turned to the outdoors for respite,” said L.L.Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith.

Customers also bought L.L.Bean home products in record numbers. Outdoor furniture sales nearly doubled, rising 97% over the 2019 total. Sales of outdoor games were up 65%. And indoors, customers purchased more casual, comfortable clothing, with sales of sleepwear increasing 54% and slippers and bedding sales each growing 42%.

As a private company, L.L.Bean is not required to publicly report its financial performance, and did not disclose earnings or the sales figures for its product lines.

In Friday’s announcement, the company said it will give a performance bonus of 10% of annual pay to about 4,600 eligible employees and an additional 8% contribution to their 401(k) plans.

The last time L.L.Bean awarded a bonus that large appears to be 2010.

The company was not immediately able to confirm details of its bonus history in response to an inquiry from Mainebiz. But published reports document how significant the extra compensation has been over the course of decades.

The decision to award bonuses is made at the end of each fiscal year by Bean’s board of directors, based on the company’s financial results. For some longtime employees, the bonus was once a significant and reliable source of income.

In 1993, the Bean bonus was 17.5% of annual pay, the New York Times reported then.

In 1996, the company failed to provide a bonus, and the late Leon Gorman, then L.L.Bean president, said that year was “the first time anyone could remember not paying it.”

More recently, L.L.Bean has awarded modest bonuses, or none at all. The company did not give a bonus in 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, or in 2018. The 2019 bonus was 5%, and the one in 2016 was 3%.

During 2020, the release noted, L.L.Bean spent $72 million on employee benefits including incentives and holiday gifts. Bean also invested an additional $10 million in extended paid time off and increased pay for front-line workers in response to COVID-19.

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