L.L. Bean’s holiday sales have been steady but not record-breaking, as the company prepares to offer employees buyouts aimed at freeing up cash.
The family-owned company does not publicly release sales figures. Spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said sales leading up to the holidays have been up and down, but “there is no reason to be concerned for the future of the company.”
“This has been a challenging year for all retailers, but we are holding our own,” Beem said in an email. “We’ve weathered lots of challenges in the past 105 years. We had a strong November and we are just getting into the peak season. … There are many weeks to go before we finish the year.”
L.L. Bean reported $1.6 billion in sales last year, essentially flat from 2015. It’s too early to predict what sales will be this year because there are three months until the end of the company’s fiscal year, Beem said.
“We’ve had plenty of bright spots, including record-breaking sales and production of Bean Boots; with cold weather just now arriving, our flannel and outerwear and gear sales are heating up; and retail is rocking, particularly on the Freeport campus, as it always is this time of year,” she said.
Orders from the web and mobile devices led the way compared to phone orders and in-store purchases, Beem added.
Employees did not receive holiday bonuses this year, Beem confirmed. They normally range from $20-$100.
“It is discretionary, sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t, sometimes it is limited.”
In 2016, L.L. Bean employees received a 3 percent annual bonus, which is separate from the holiday bonus.
Last month, L.L. Bean estimated record-breaking sales of its iconic leather-and-rubber “duck boots,” projecting that it would sell 750,000 pairs, about 100,000 more than last year. A new injection molding machine was recently installed at the L.L. Bean boot factory in Lewiston, part of the company’s plan to make 1 million boots a year by 2018.
Last year, L.L. Bean said it would offer roughly 900 employees early retirement packages in an effort to trim its U.S. workforce of 4,500-5,000 by 10 percent and free up cash to grow the business. If enough eligible employees take buyouts, it would eliminate the need for layoffs, executive chairman Shawn Gorman said last year. At the same time, the company announced it was freezing its pension program, but increasing contributions to employee’s 401(k) retirement plan.
The company will likely begin offering early retirement at the beginning of 2018, Beem said. The company downsized by offering early retirement in 2009.
“It is not a new thing, it is not a unique thing,” she said.
“It hasn’t opened up yet, we just announced we would be offering it so people could have ample time to review their personal situation.”
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