Despite ramping up production, L.L. Bean continues to have trouble keeping up with orders for its signature “Bean boot,” also known as duck boots.
Similar styles from other brands have also proliferated, but it’s the Bean boot that apparently remains top of the heap for the fashion-forward as well as more traditional wearers.
The retailer failed to fill holiday orders last year and added work shifts to its two factories and a piece of Italian manufacturing equipment to increase production.
L.L. Bean has manufactured and sold its iconic “Bean boot” in various iterations for more than a century, but it has recently gained new popularity among teenagers and college students. The boots have rubber bottoms and leather uppers, come in ankle and higher boot styles, and are lined with a variety of warming interiors like Thinsulate, Gore-Tex, and shearling.
“Fashionable” is a relative term, of course — the boots have long been worn by outdoor types mostly unconcerned about fashion, though women’s footwear designer Manolo Blahnik last year reportedly requested a pair when New York City’s ice and snow got the best of him, which only added to the boot’s popularity.
Part of the reason that the Bean boot’s manufacture isn’t keeping up with orders is that the company refuses to outsource production or change its methods much. No doubt the painstaking, locally made nature of the boots are part of their appeal, so being stubborn about its process is good strategy.
"We realize we could outsource, but that will never happen," L.L. Bean spokesman Mac McKeever told Bloomberg. "The boots have been hand-sewn in Maine by our own skilled boot workers, and they always will be."