LL Bean Set to Cut Pension Plan and Re-Evaluate Free Shipping and Return Policy

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  1. #1
    thetrailboss's Avatar
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    Post LL Bean Set to Cut Pension Plan and Re-Evaluate Free Shipping and Return Policy

    Looks like LL Bean is looking to cut costs after mediocre performance as of late and little growth from 2010-2015 and flat sales in 2015. It is going to freeze its pension plan and instead boost 401k contributions to all 5,000 employees inlcuding 1,000 out of state employees who work in retail stores and do not receive a pension.

    It is also likely to eliminate its free shipping and to either axe or rewrite its return policy because of fraudulent returns.

    So in years past I was luke warm at best about LL Bean. Their products were mediocre at best and the response from folks was "yeah, but the return policy is great." In my mind, make a great product so it DOES NOT have to be returned.

    We bought a lot from them in the 2010-2015 timeframe. Free shipping and the credit card program were big reasons. But over the last year we've stopped because of issues with their credit card program that remain unresolved (Barclays Bank's service now sucks because the Feds are going after them for their role in the economic meltdown). I would not be surprised if the fact that one of the family members has become a political target is hurting their sales.

    So for us, big meh. We've got other options and are using them.


    As L.L. Bean cuts costs, liberal returns policy could change
    By DAVID SHARP Associated Press

    FREEPORT, Maine (AP) L.L. Bean is moving to cut costs by freezing pensions and offering voluntary early retirements, and company officials say they are taking a hard look at its generous shipping and return policies.

    The Freeport-based outdoors retailer will freeze its defined-benefit pension plan and boost its 401(k) savings contributions to all 5,000 workers, including 1,000 out-of-state store employees who were not previously eligible for the full pension, company officials said.

    It's part of a broader look at all aspects of the business, company officials said, which could lead to changes that affect shoppers.

    L.L. Bean currently offers free shipping on everything, and its "satisfaction" guarantee is so liberal that it's led to abuse of the return policy. Company officials said they will have more to say later this year about shipping and efforts to combat fraudulent returns.

    The privately held company expects to reduce its workforce by about 500 workers about 10 percent through early retirement incentives, said CEO Steve Smith. Other employment changes include more flexible time off, paid parental leave and paid eldercare support, benefits employees have been seeking, he said.

    The employment changes were announced by Smith in a memo and in meetings with workers Thursday.

    The changes, which go into effect next year, were in the works before Smith's arrival as CEO last year and unwanted publicity surrounding board member Linda Bean's campaign donations, officials said.

    Chairman Shawn Gorman, great-grandson of founder L.L. Bean, said such decisions "weigh heavily" on the family-owned business. But he said they're necessary for the company to remain competitive.

    "Without a healthy core business, it's really hard to satisfy any of the stakeholders," he told The Associated Press. "So the move is designed to get us to a more competitive and modern benefits package that allowed us to be sustainable for the foreseeable future."

    The pension move is no big surprise in a challenging retail environment. L.L. Bean's sales were flat in 2015, and growth for the five years before that was slow.

    Nationwide, the private sector has been eliminating pensions. In 2015, about one-fifth of Fortune 500 companies offered a traditional or hybrid defined benefit plan to new hires, down from 60 percent in 1998, according to business consulting firm Willis Towers Watson .

    Smith said the goal is to return L.L. Bean to the strong growth levels the company experienced in the 1980s and 1990s.



    "As long as your expenses are growing faster than your sales, then you're not able to invest in growth," Smith said. "What we're focused on is getting to where we're back in growth mode."
    http://www.caledonianrecord.com/news...55b019fba.html
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  2. #2
    Never really considered LL Bean, Eddie Bauer or Lands End stuff. Never really drawn to it I guess - felt to catalogue in your face like. Can't say I know anyone that has LL Bean stuff. They had their place in the 90's but I think they experienced too much competition over the past 15 years.

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  3. #3
    thetrailboss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dlague View Post
    Never really considered LL Bean, Eddie Bauer or Lands End stuff. Never really drawn to it I guess - felt to catalogue in your face like. Can't say I know anyone that has LL Bean stuff. They had their place in the 90's but I think they experienced too much competition over the past 15 years.

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    I know of a lot of folks in the NE who use LLB.

    As to Lands End, I don't consider that to be an outdoor gear manufacturer.

    Eddie Bauer has turned the corner and is making some really good stuff now.
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  4. #4
    That is a shame to hear. I went to college in Maine near LL Bean in Freeport. I thought their stuff had great value when I was in school and let me tell you, in the midcoast area of Maine many many families and young people are wearing LL Bean still and they are a fairly big presence in the communities around Freeport. Their core products I thought still had quality construction as of 2012 or so. I wonder if it has degraded since.

    I still have some friends who work for LL Bean up there. I haven't heard of any of them looking for new jobs yet, hopefully all will be well in the long term.

  5. #5
    thetrailboss's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jully View Post
    That is a shame to hear. I went to college in Maine near LL Bean in Freeport. I thought their stuff had great value when I was in school and let me tell you, in the midcoast area of Maine many many families and young people are wearing LL Bean still and they are a fairly big presence in the communities around Freeport. Their core products I thought still had quality construction as of 2012 or so. I wonder if it has degraded since.

    I still have some friends who work for LL Bean up there. I haven't heard of any of them looking for new jobs yet, hopefully all will be well in the long term.
    A lot of their stuff from 2010, 2011, 2012 was great I thought. Not necessarily durable, but good.
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  6. #6
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    Another American institution losing way. I use to like LL Bean a lot back in the 80-2000s. Sure you could get more "techy" stuff for hard goods and more advanced and better styled soft goods from manufactures dedicated to what you were looking for, but LL Bean offered a good all around alternative, and their products weren't bad, especially some of their camping and fishing stuff. And I like the fact that they were open 24hrs when I drove through Freeport on my way down east. I also liked that a lot of people really liked them, so they thrived, in an American institution kinda way.

    But then they started doing what all other of there ilk did, they farmed out more and more of their control of manufacturing and it showed. They would contract with other companies and never see the product themselves for some of their product, just ship under their name. This, in my opinion is a death knell. I've yet to see it work out well when big Companies start down that road.

    I have a long and sorted story about a large product we purchased from LLB, and the initial poor quality, and the run around with them, and the shipping back and forth-several times- to get it right -all the while LLB never laid a hand on any of the product. But I won't go into it here.

    I hope they get their $hit together, I really like them and we need the LL Beans in places like Maine, that hire thousands of workers.

  7. #7
    No big loss. I worked at LL Bean a few years ago, and it was a horror show of cutting corners. Always trying to cut hours, HR lacking credibility, inventory system is in the 20 th century, not enough inventory, so sales lost. I could go on and on. The biggest problem is that everything is made in third world countries, so quality is s***. If they would sell a decent product in the first place, it would not have to be returned so many times. The Barclays credit card is a prime example of bad soviet bloc customer service. They have a lot of work to do to regain the trust that they lost over the past 2 decades. Any LL Bean employee who is surprised by this announcement needs to get their head out of the sand. At the very least, I hope some folks are updating their resumes.

  8. #8
    bigbog's Avatar
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    Yeah, you've got the idea towards a successfully run company theTrailboss. They've diversified so much...ie trying to please ALL the people with 75% quality, that their sales bottom line gets pummelled vs companies, one after another, that specialize in certain specific activities/sports...
    Last edited by bigbog; Feb 24, 2017 at 4:58 PM.
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  9. #9
    Edd's Avatar
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    I've shopped there off/on for many years. I've never had a quality issue. I do have issues with the style of their clothes. Too dated, IMO.

  10. #10
    You don't like the reissued 1985 Grandpa Jeans in the spring 17 catalog?

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