FREEPORT – No changes are expected at the Lewiston call center in the wake of L.L. Bean’s recently announced expansion.

The call center, on Main Street in the former Peck’s department store, employs about 400 people year-round, but swells to 1,200 during the holiday season. The center has been laying off some of its part-time workers, as part “of the seasonal ebb and flow” of its business, said Rich Donaldson, spokesman for the outdoor lifestyle retailer.

“We’re just getting back to normal after our peak,” he said. Although he didn’t have specific employment numbers for Lewiston, he did say there are no changes planned for the company’s biggest call center.

L.L. Bean announced plans this week to upgrade its Freeport retail stores and distribution facility, and to open five new stores in the Northeast. Donaldson said there’s a possibility that Bean will bring in more goods and products through the Auburn intermodal facility as a result of the expansion, but that seemed about the extent of the impact on the area.

The company has been on a growth spurt the last few years. It recorded a 48 percent increase in Internet sales for the 2005 holiday season compared to its 2004 season. Overall, sales increased 17 percent. Its total sales in 2004 were $1.4 billion.

Donaldson said the company’s expansion has been in the works for several years and has nothing to do with reports that a major competitor might be opening a complex in Scarborough. Local and state economic development people have confirmed that Cabela’s, another huge outdoor retailer, has been negotiating to open a facility there.

Donaldson said the availability of the store in Freeport next to Bean’s flagship campus (formerly occupied by Levi Strauss) is what sparked the announcement. Buying that Main Street building meant Bean could move forward with its retail expansion. The plan also calls for a development next to its Freeport factory store that will include additional parking and office space.

A $35 million upgrade of the company’s distribution center should be finished in 2007.



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