L.L.Bean Tries to Go Younger

Discussion
Mar 16, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

When Julia Winder, a 20-year-old college sophomore from
Princeton, N.J., spoke with The Boston Globe, she said exactly what
L.L.Bean wanted to hear.

“It’s really cool they’re aiming at a younger generation.
This is more of a preppy East Coast style rather than just an outdoorsy Maine
look,’ she said. “It’s perfect for summers on Nantucket.’

The “this” Ms.
Winder was referring to was L.L.Bean’s new Signature line of clothing aimed
at young adults. The chain will need to get many more similar reactions from
college kids and others if it is to take on the likes of J. Crew, Ralph Lauren’s
Rugby and others competing for this market.

As the Globe article points
out, L.L.Bean is moving into completely new territory with the line. The chain’s
combination of classic yet casual styling and a commitment to customer service
that is second-to-none has made it a favorite among Baby Boomers. The last
time the company launched a new collection, a line of clothing designed for
career women, it fell flat.

“It seems like every time retailers stray from
who they are — getting younger or getting more fashionable — it’s failed,’
Mike Tesler, president and founder of Retail Concepts and a member of the RetailWire BrainTrust,
told the Globe.
“The opportunity for L.L.Bean lies in being authentic. If they’re going at
this from the ground up, instead of thinking that they know everything, that’s
a good approach.’

L.L.Bean took the approach that it didn’t know everything
going in and recruited college kids to help it determine what would work. Students
who participated even created a code name “Bean in the wiL.L.d’ for the project.

“It’s
really exciting to have college kids reaching out to us wanting to help,’
Chris Vickers, vice president of L.L.Bean Signature, told the Globe.
“We think it says a lot about L.L.Bean as a company.’

L.L.Bean launched
a new website (www.llbeansignature.com) to feature the Signature line. The
site includes new tools such as Key Looks, which allows consumers to see outfits
styled by creative director Alex Carleton. Visitors can see complete outfits
and purchase them “in just a few clicks,” according to the company. Mr.
Carleton’s career includes stops at Polo Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch
before he joined L.L.Bean.

“Our catalog, website and social media campaign will help us engage the consumers
and offer them a closer look into our company’s long-standing heritage. As
we launch L.L.Bean Signature, it will be through compelling marketing programs
such as this that we define the new collection and create a new consumer following,” said
Mr. Vickers in a press release.

Discussion Questions: Is L.L.Bean on the right track
trying to expand its consumer base with the Signature line? Assuming it has the
style component right, what will it take for Bean to make the new line a hit
with young adults?

[Editor’s Note] From L.L.Bean’s press release: “The Spring/Summer
2010 line for men will include lightweight, tailored navy linen blazers, buffalo
plaid and madras shirting, nubby shawl-neck sweaters, a new version of the
all-American field coat and a waxed cotton style of the famous Maine Hunting
Shoe. The women’s collection will feature a modern interpretation of the belted
camp jacket, chambray and colorful madras shirtdresses, classic wrap skirts
and new chino and denim styles. Carleton has also updated L.L.Bean classics
such as the Boat and Tote Bag.”

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15 Comments on "L.L.Bean Tries to Go Younger"


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Ben Ball
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

L.L.Bean may be viewing this as “something completely new” and that is probably a good thing. But in another perspective, this is just L.L.Bean adapting L.L.Bean to a new generation. They enter the space with tremendous authenticity. And there is an obvious void created by Lands’ End when they went to Sears. L.L.Bean will do very well here I predict. Very well indeed.

Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 1 month ago
L.L.Bean is, without a doubt, a quality chain that needs to make some strategic shifts, in a subtle fashion, to attract a younger demographic. The Signature line is a promising arena. The demographics of the L.L.Bean shopper is one for which many retailers would turn green with envy. Based on the February, 2010 Consumer Intentions & Actions (CIA) Survey, the L.L.Bean consumer who “Shops Most often for Men’s or Women’s Apparel” at their stores/catalog are: Well Educated with 15.8 years of schooling vs. the General Population of 14.5 years; a bit older Adult of 52 years vs. 45 for the General Population; they index at 134 vs. the General Population on the Professional/Managerial scale; they are affluent, earning over $75,000 vs. household incomes of $56,000 for the General Population; and, they are overwhelmingly homeowners, with 94% saying that they own their own abode. IF the target of the signature line is a 20 year old student, L.L.Bean will have to make some decisions marketing decisions that are slightly different than their current ones (digital media… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

The looks and the price points appear to target the J.Crew shopper. If L.L.Bean can generate enough publicity to ensure that its audience knows about the line, they can do very well. Awareness will be key; most older teens and twenty-somethings aren’t cruising the Bean site on a regular basis.

Kris Medford
Guest
Kris Medford
11 years 1 month ago

I find it strange to not see any mention of the Lands’ End Canvas line as a counter to L.L.Bean’s Signature. My initial assessment is that based on price point and styling, Lands’ End appeals to the J.Crew audience much more effectively.

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
11 years 1 month ago

This could be a good new direction for L.L.Bean, beloved by so many New Englanders and the rest of us! With quality and an authenticity so clearly different than other lines, this message may resonate with younger shoppers who favor this look. Bringing in a college advisory “board” will be important as they build this collection.

Social media may be critically important to build awareness and get the message out. The value proposition is solid, the target audience is clear–off to a good start!

Dan Marois
Guest
Dan Marois
11 years 1 month ago

Bean will rock with this line. Lands’ End is just a rehash of old stuff while L.L.Bean is a well thought out updating and restructuring of its heritage look for today’s 30 to 45 year old.

Though the college crowd will be drawn to the line, this is not its main audience. The audience is the 30 to 45 year old who have grown up with L.L.Bean, purchased their back-packs for their kids and the Bean Boot for their outdoor ventures. Now, Bean offers them a look that’s casual, yet appropriate for business as well. Bean will soar with this line!

Interesting that the new buzz in the fashion world is for a nearly 100 year old retailer.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
11 years 1 month ago
L.L.Bean is a terrific brand with an incredibly loyal following. Like all established brands, in order to survive and grow, they must adapt and cater to the upcoming generation. In this case, it is Generation Y and, at 110 million strong, is a huge opportunity. It is absolutely true that attempting to protect a current customer base while reaching out to a new one is very perilous. Talbots and Brooks Brothers almost put themselves out of business in their attempt. Tiffany, on the other hand, did a brilliant job. Bringing in “advisors” from the generation that they are targeting is an extremely good idea. Typically, this is done by senior executives who, while accomplished and experienced, struggle to understand the ethos of a younger generation. The next critical ingredient is to show patience and endurance, as this is not a short-term project. Tiffany took over three years to put their transition in place. The final challenge is in marketing. This generation is over 90% wired. To reach them, L.L.Bean needs to build its Social Media… Read more »
Mark Baum
Guest
Mark Baum
11 years 1 month ago

I agree with most of the others that this appears to be a move in the right direction for L.L.Bean. That said, the demographic they are targeting is a fickle market; very style/fashion savvy, and less brand loyal than their Baby Boomer parents. L.L.Bean built their reputation on consistency, quality, and customer service–all hallmarks of a successful retailer (physical, online, etc.), but it will be interesting to see if they can think and execute in a “fashion forward” kind of way….

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
11 years 1 month ago

Preppy East Coast style opens an additional audience door to reliable L.L.Bean to compliment their traditional customer base. Bean has proven they know how to well-satisfy their chosen customer target and they will adapt to the wants of today’s preppy customers. Meanwhile L.L.Bean isn’t going to lose their loyal outdoors Maine-look customers because are so customer-oriented. Like every good rifle, L.L.Bean will now have two strong sales barrels.

Kim Barrington
Guest
Kim Barrington
11 years 1 month ago
They’re managing the process very well with their marketing strategies. It’s a method to watch for all companies to see if this works. They released a preview to a small private New England university, Bates College, and have student ambassadors to support the launch. Then they’ll be doing, of all things, trunk shows at five other hand selected universities. I think it’s a brilliant marketing campaign. Plus, they’ve highlighted some of the strongest of the product coming out of L.L.Bean to speak to this audience, with the Waxed L.L.Bean Hunting Boot, and the Ranger Moc. Both great shoes/boots and the well heeled (pun intended) college student will eat these up. As an older female, I own both of the original versions and they’ll still outlive me but I’d like to own these updated versions. So whatever they are doing, they’re destined to become classics themselves even if for a younger audience. I reviewed the release on my own blog, http://www.trendbites.com including the Tremor Effect group supporting them on Facebook and find it all pretty fascinating.… Read more »
Jeff Hall
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

L.L.Bean is launching the Signature line at just the right time, as its target consumer in this category continues to shift purchase preferences toward products that exude a certain authenticity, timelessness and value. As an iconic American brand that has stayed true to its values, I see the Signature line as an appropriate extension of a solid merchandise assortment, presented in a manner that is true to the storied heritage of the L.L.Bean brand.

TED ASHBY
Guest
TED ASHBY
11 years 1 month ago

As a retailer in a major college market, not only are students my customers, I employ them as well. They are “all about me,” unable to give me any broad insight to improving our offering, merchandising, and customer service. More than half of all the students that walk through my door are wearing North Face and Uggs. (Good luck finding a way to challenge that perception.) Add to that a few T-shirts, the right jeans and your making a living. It’s not rocket science, it’s not even hard but it is boring. Good luck L.L.Bean as you try to reinvent the wheel.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

Good and bad–the whole Brooklyn “hipster” movement, which is a natural extension of LL’s look. I was on a plane to NYC the other day and 3 1/2 people on the flight had on the LL/hipster look, which is a good sign as anyone interested in fashion will seek out authentic brands to put this lumberjack-cool thing together. The caution part is to not get too drunk in the slipstream of this trend unless of course it goes bonkers mainstream (think khaki 1988). But having relayed that caution, the timelessness and quality of the LL brand should have a lot of legs…they’re just not legs I’d go nuts on.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
11 years 1 month ago

Expanding the line and attracting new customers? Sounds like a good plan for any retailer. I agree that the apparel industry has its own set of unique challenges as everything they sell is visual and could be instantly rendered obsolete. L.L.Bean has a general enough assortment that their Signature line could fit right into the current mix nicely.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
11 years 1 month ago

L.L.Bean is on the right track. Their core audience were all in college during the ’70s and other brands have borrowed some of the product line and added a younger flair (Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle).

Why not repackage some of their classic items and put them forth in a younger “wrapper”?

I think their efforts here will be rewarded by the market.

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