- L.L. Bean announced that it is entering into wholesale partnerships for the first time in its history, according to information the company sent to Retail Dive.
- The retailer's launch into wholesale will be with Midwestern sporting goods retailer Scheels, Nordstrom and Staples, where backpacks and accessories will be sold during the back-to-school season.
- L.L. Bean has been working on its wholesale initiative for over a year. The three partnerships will place its products in more than 1,200 stores as well as each retailer's online channel.
L.L. Bean is expanding the reach of its products and brand by partnering with other retailers via wholesale for the first time in its history. The goal is to broaden its omnichannel approach and strategy, the company said.
"As a 108-year old retailer, we believe in the longevity and strength of the industry while also recognizing that the way customers shop and interact with brands will continue to shift and evolve quickly," L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith said in a statement.
The approach will also get L.L. Bean clothing, backpacks and outdoor equipment in front of new audiences. However, delving into wholesale in the midst of a pandemic may prove to be more difficult than anticipated. Department stores (including Nordstrom) are struggling and apparel sales are down due to the disease outbreak. Additionally, some wholesale companies are financially struggling: Iconix Brand Groups revealed last week that it is considering "strategic alternatives" for its business, including a potential sale, while Centric Brands filed Chapter 11 in May.
In an announcement in June, L.L. Bean said it is expanding its retail presence by opening three stores in Ontario by the end of 2020. The retailer stated that it is making its products "more accessible" in the area because its operations in Canada represent its highest new customer growth globally.
The company launched its Canadian e-commerce site in 2018 and opened its first store in there in August 2019. "The positive response to our first store opening accelerated our expansion plan from two stores to three stores this year, despite the economic downturn," Greg Elder, vice president of retail and international, said in a statement.
The specialty retailer's expansion comes as many retailers are shrinking their physical footprints or not reopening specific locations after temporarily shutting due to COVID-19. Coresight Research estimated that up to 25,000 stores could permanently close in the U.S. this year, more than doubling last year's closures.
"While there may be cases of distressed nondiscretionary retailers, those selling selected categories of discretionary goods will lead closures, driven principally by diminished cash flows on the back of enforced store closures," Coresight CEO and founder Deborah Weinswig stated regarding the forecast.
The retailer currently operates stores in 54 locations throughout New England and the Atlantic region.