adidas returns LL Bean struggles to meet demand for iconic boot
Bean boots is surging so much so that some customers will have to wait until February to get their holiday purchases.
A backlog of 60,000 boot orders could grow to 100,000 by month’s end, and the company is in the process of hiring 100 workers and purchasing additional equipment to catch up with demand.
The rubber bottomed, leather topped “duck boot” has seen sales grow from fewer than 100,000 a decade ago to about 450,000 this year. Next year, the number is expected to top 500,000.
That growth has outpaced even the company’s aggressive expectations, Armstrong said. But it’s difficult to say exactly what’s boosting demand popularity on college campuses, new styles including bright colors or the plaid and boots style dubbed “lumberjack chic.”
“Whatever is driving it is making us happy. Bean’s operations manager, who oversees Bean’s shoemaking operations. Bean is adding a third shift this weekend at its leather sewing operation in Brunswick, which joins an operation that makes rubber soles in Lewiston that’s already working around the clock.
In the coming year,
the company is also hiring 100 workers to bring the shoe making operation to 500 workers and spending $1 million to purchase a second injection molding machine like one that’s currently in use in Lewiston. But the production boost won’t happen overnight because it takes up to six months to get new workers fully trained. Bean is an enviable position with its boots because price conscious young consumers are willing to pay for the original heritage item as opposed to a knockoff, much like the growing demand for original Sperry Top Siders, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at market researcher NPD Group.
“You’ve got the younger consumer jumping all over it like they just discovered it but the boomer generation has been wearing it for all their lives. So you’re getting growth from the top and the bottom of the age spectrum,” he said.
Bean’s boot is a rare success story for domestic shoe making. Bass, Cole Haan, Sebago and Dexter long ago moved their production out of Maine in search of cheaper labor. Labor Department. Bean’s products are now made overseas as well, but the family owned company has insisted on keeping production of its iconic boot in Maine.
For now, there’s no sign that demand is waning.
A couple of miles from the Lewiston plant, many Bates College students trudging across the snowy campus on a recent day were keeping their feet warm and dry with Bean boots.
“It’s kind of a running joke that your outfit is not complete without a pair of Bean boots and a North Face jacket,” said Caitrin Griffin, a junior from outside Chicago. “As a Bates student, that’s what you wear. You see everyone walking around in them,
especially after the first snowfall.”