L.L. Bean has for so many decades enjoyed a much deserved reputation as a great iconic American company, with legions of fiercely loyal customers spanning generations, through their impressive clothes and customer service. But while that same high level of customer service endures, their offerings have taken another (and unfortunate) path over the past few years.
So here are the top fifteen ways L.L. Bean can save itself.
1. Get rid of Signature
2. Close all of the mall stores
And consequently eliminate all the items, such as those with giant motifs and giant buttons, that are designed to fill them.
3. Improve, rather than "improve", staple items
Incremental improvement, such as better stitching and thicker fabrics, is critical and expected. But they should stop radically redesigning or just plain cheapening clothes and calling it "improved". Customers don’t want to waste time trying to figure out what khaki pants to buy every time they need a new pair. Change is not always a good thing.
4. Stop discontinuing customers’ staple items
L.L. Bean no longer offers dozens of fabulous items (such as the Natural/Navy Birdseye sweater).
5. Bring back items from decades ago
But they should not "redesign", "reinterpret", or "update" them. Any changes, if done at all, should be to recommit to functionality and purpose, not trendiness and lower production costs.
6. Mainstream more of their clothing from their hunting and fishing departments
This is where quality and functionality are at the forefront.
7. Increase the “Made in Maine” items; Decrease the "Made in China" items
They have done this brilliantly with the Bean Boot, and Boat and Tote production.
8. Get rid of Signature
9. Embrace the organic and sustainable fabricsEven Wal-Mart offers organic cotton.
10. Spend more money on quality materials and construction; less on advertising and public relations
11. Stop slim-fitting so many items
Most people are not so slim, and even those who are don’t always want super tight clothes. This is probably a trend whose reversal is not far away.
12. Stop bathing so many cotton items in stain resistant, wrinkle resistant chemicals
Many items labeled 100% cotton feel more like polyester. Though a lot of customers appreciate some of the properties the chemicals enable, there should be identical, untreated alternatives for the core items (like the Men’s Double L Chinos, for example).
13. Overhaul, yet again, the Women’s offerings
L.L. Bean has never really gotten this right, although in the past there have been enough staples one could ferret out to compile a classic wardrobe. This is not true at present.
14. Style more effectively the Women’s classic items in catalogs
A great many classic items over the years have not been showcased effectively in the catalogs, combining bad colors, etc., and therefore giving a frumpier look to classic items that should look great.
15. Get rid of Signature
L.L. Bean is on the verge of reestablishing itself as a shadow of its former self. It is throwing away so much good will and loyalty built up over the decades. There is still time to turn the company around. But not much.