Ever since announcing its interest in acquiring Eddie Bauer Retail stores from Spiegel, it has been apparent that L.L. Bean is interested in expanding its retail presence nationally, and now the retailer has announced that it will be opening between three and five new retail stores in the Mid-Atlantic region this year.

Currently the company has 15 factory stores three traditional retail stores and its 120,000 square foot flagship store in Maine. A local paper is reporting that L.L. Bean’s four retail stores’ sales increased 14% over last year, making up roughly 30% of the company’s total revenue.

The goal of the retail expansion is said to be two-fold – first to reduce the company’s reliance on catalog sales, and second to expand both retail and catalog sales through multi-channel merchandising efforts.

Bean has not yet decided on exact locations for the stores, and is not ruling out expansion further South. Currently all distribution is coming out of the company’s Maine headquarters, but a new distribution center could be in the works in the not-too-distant future.

To head up the expansion efforts, Bean has added two new executives, Ed Howell was hired as Chief Retail Officer and member of the Office of the President, and Ken Kacere was recently promoted to SVP and General Manager of Retail.

Howell spent 9 years at L.L.Bean from 1987 until 1996. At the time of his departure he was Vice President and General Manager of Men's Apparel, Footwear and L.L.Bean Kids, a business Howell is credited with starting. Howell had been President of the Sorel Division of Columbia Sportswear. Prior to Columbia he was President & CEO of Eastern Mountain Sports where he had oversight of 80 retail stores.

Kacere joined L.L.Bean just three years ago as Vice President of Factory Stores after 16 years with G.H. Bass & Co., where he held the position of Executive Vice President and General Manager of Retail and Brand Marketing, and President of bassnet.

The mid-Atlantic region is becoming a battleground of sorts for outdoor retail, with Dick’s, REI, EMS, TSA and now L.L. Bean expanding and re-branding their stores in the area.