PORTLAND (AP) – Outdoors outfitter L.L. Bean Inc. notified employees Friday that it plans to lay off 200 to 240 workers in Maine because of lagging sales.

In a letter to its 5,400 full- and part-time workers, the Freeport-based retailer said voluntary retirement incentives announced in February have helped reduce the number of layoffs but were not sufficient to eliminate the need for job cuts.

The letter from President and CEO Chris McCormick, obtained by The Associated Press, played down hopes for a quick turnaround as unrealistic.

The privately held company said last month that revenue for the fiscal year that ended in February totaled $1.5 billion, down 7.8 percent from the previous year. It was only the third annual drop in revenue since 1960. L.L. Bean does not release earnings.

Employees who will lose their jobs will be notified beginning at the end of next week. L.L. Bean, which already had imposed a wage freeze, had warned its workers late last year of potential layoffs.

Along with the job cuts in Maine, the company anticipates about a dozen layoffs at retail and outlet stores in other states, spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said.

The layoffs will take place during the next few weeks and will affect both salaried and hourly employees. Some full-time workers will be offered part-time jobs.

This isn’t the first time that L.L. Bean, which gets most of its revenue from catalog and online sales, has been forced to cut jobs. A similar number of layoffs occurred during the sales slump that followed the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Beem said.

The company declined to say how many employees elected to take early retirement incentives.

McCormick’s letter says the latest revenue losses have put pressure on the company’s gross margin, forcing the need to control expenses.

“The decision to eliminate jobs in this economy that is already posing such hardships on so many families did not come easy,” he wrote. “We have explored a number of other alternatives and implemented many. However, our hope for a significant turnaround in business in the next 18 months that could return our revenue to pre-recession levels is just not realistic.”

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