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L.L. Bean Continues Wholesale Push With Zappos Tie-Up

L.L. Bean is continuing its wholesale push by bringing select products to one of the internet’s biggest commerce platforms for footwear and apparel. On Thursday, the iconic Bean Boot landed on Zappos.com, the first of many L.L. Bean items available to the e-commerce giant’s throng of shoppers.

The Wicked Good Slipper—one of L.L. Bean’s top-selling items—was among the first L.L. Bean products to be made available on Zappos.com, while the company says it will continue to release a diverse selection of L.L. Bean products including outerwear, flannels, fleece and more this month, all in a variety of styles and sizes for men, women and children.

As of Monday, 112 of the fashion company’s items, including boots, jackets, down vests and fleece, are listed on the Zappos site. The traditional eight-inch Bean Boots sell for $139 on Zappos.com.

For Zappos, L.L. Bean comes into the fold at a very opportune time, when shoppers are prioritizing purchases of outdoor-related items, particularly footwear, throughout the pandemic. While total footwear U.S. sales for August declined 18 percent year over year, an even bigger drop than July’s 16 percent decline, according to NPD Group, there’s a nearly 25 percent sales growth for cold/all-weather boots still in play as the season kicks into gear.

“Having 108 years of quality products and incredible customer centricity under your belt is no small feat, we have great respect for the enduring legacy L.L. Bean has created,” said Karlyn Mattson, general manager of merchandise strategy at Zappos. “We are such fans, and we know our customers are too.” Zappos customers have expressed interest in L.L. Bean products, she added, and the partnership signals that the “love is mutual.”

L.L. Bean's iconic Bean Boot is now available on Zappos.com as part of a new wholesale relationship.

A Bean Boot is seen in the return bin at L.L. Bean retail store in Freeport, Maine. Although the company is changing its return policy it will always accept returns on products that have failed, such as this boot.

L.L. Bean’s new wholesale partnerships are part of the company’s omnichannel growth strategy to make its footwear, gear, apparel, and outerwear more accessible outside of its own 54 stores to customers online and in partner retail locations across the country. Traditionally, it sold direct to consumer and through a catalog.

The arrangement with Zappos expands L.L. Bean’s wholesale footprint, which includes selling in 20 Nordstrom department stores and on its website, as well as Scheels, a sporting goods retailer with 27 stores in 12 states, and even Staples. L.L. Bean began all three of those partnerships in July.

The Maine-based retailer could use some diversification in its channel mix, as sales slipped 3 percent to $1.5 billion in 2019 and are on track to be down slightly again in 2020, this time because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing shuttering of the company’s stores for more than two months, overshadowing growing online sales.

But the boot maker did see some sales upticks amid the outbreak. L.L. Bean told Footwear News that it sold a pair of slippers every minute in March, while outdoor furniture and hammock sales were up a respective 80 percent and 150 percent in April. In May and June, bicycle sales rose 400 percent, and the July and August period saw women’s active apparel sales nearly double.

In September, L.L. Bean saw significant growth in the fleece and flannel categories, as well as winter sports gear, including sleds and children’s snow boots.

This has been a period of firsts for L.L. Bean as the company seeks to get out in front of new consumers. To kick off the year, the retailer partnered with Todd Snyder, marking the first time the brand has every collaborated with an outside designer on a limited-edition collection. Items in the capsule were inspired by iconic L.L. Bean fieldwear pieces such as wool shirt jackets, puffer vests, Norwegian sweaters, and Bean boots, but reinvented in premium materials and tailored fits for the “urban adventurer.”

And the year prior, L.L. Bean collaborated with fellow Maine-based brand, Flowfold, for its first-ever co-branded Bean Boot. The launch was part of the brand’s renewed focus on small-batch silhouettes to drive consumer interest.

Amazon-owned Zappos has undergone some changes as well in recent times, with longtime CEO Tony Hsieh resigning from his post in August. Chief operating officer Kedar Deshpande was promoted to CEO in his place.

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