FREEPORT (AP) – Hoping to avoid layoffs, L.L. Bean says it will freeze all wages and salaries for its 5,500 employees for the coming year. The freeze, to take effect during the company’s next budget period which starts in March, is due to slumping sales.

Company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said the move eliminates the need to reduce 75 to 100 positions.

The company is also offering early retirement incentives to all employees who are 55 or older and have been with the company for five or more years. The program will be offered at the end of February through early April.

The moves come after a 10 percent drop in holiday sales. The company expects 2008 sales will close lower than 2007.

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