Apparently skirting any major impact from a threatened boycott over political contributions, L.L.Bean was able to deliver sales in 2016 that were flat against the prior year.
On January 6, The Federal Election Commission accused Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company’s founder Leon Leonwood Bean, of making a $60,000 donation to a political action committee supporting then-candidate Donald Trump that exceeded limits. A group called Grab Your Wallet, which targets companies and corporate executives that supported Trump, called for a boycott of the company.
A further discovery found that her donations were overstated and that she actually gave $25,000. Due to a paperwork error, the donation was supposed to be registered as a super PAC with unlimited donations. Yet tweets from Donald Trump thanking Linda Bean and encouraging readers to “Buy L.L. Bean” particularly stoked the controversy.
But the threatened boycott appeared to have little impact. Indeed, the company said that while its overall performance was generally in line with the retail industry, the company outperformed its competitors during the holiday shopping season.
Said president and CEO, Steve Smith, “While it has been a challenging year in the retail environment, our employees delivered world class service and products to our customers. Their efforts are deserving of recognition, and will continue to be a key ingredient to L.L.Bean’s future success.”
Sales came to $1.6 billion, the same as 2015 as well as 2014. The company stated sales were “slightly up.”
The L.L.Bean family and board of directors approved payment of a 3 percent discretionary cash performance bonus to approximately 6,000 eligible employees.
“It’s a well-deserved bonus,” said Shawn Gorman, the company’s executive chairman, of the bonus, in a statement. “On behalf of the family and the board of directors, I congratulate and thank L.L.Bean employees for their outstanding performance. We have a great team in place, and are pleased to recognize their many achievements.”
The bonus of 3 percent was the same as 2015. In In 2014, employees got an 8 percent bonus.
The flat sales for third straight year in a row comes as the company said on February 10 that it would be offering voluntary buyouts to eligible employees in 2018 with a goal of reducing 10 percent of its workforce. It employs about 500. The company is also discontinuing contributions to its pension plan and may alter its generous return policy.
The changes “are designed to ensure L.L.Bean continues to be a thriving outdoor company for the next hundred years and beyond,” Gorman said in a statement at the time
L.L.Bean last month announced plans to open its 34th retail store outside of Maine with a location to open in Massachusetts at Mashpee Commons in the summer of 2017. In its hometown state of Maine, it has five locations in Freeport, including its 220,000 sq. ft. flagship. It also operates stores in Bangor and Ellsworth in Maine. In the past five years, L.L.Bean has donated over $6 million toward conservation.
Photo courtesy L.L.Bean