March 17, 2010, 12:00 AM

E-commerce overtook catalog sales for the first time at L.L. Bean

Internet sales surpassed catalog orders at L.L. Bean for the first time in 2009, assisted by web upgrades including developing its presence on social media sites Facebook and Twitter to better engage online customers and build brand awareness.

Lead Photo

Chris McCormick, CEO, L.L Bean

 

The web was kind to L.L. Bean last year. Internet sales surpassed catalog orders for the first time, the retailer says, and L.L. Bean says it made “considerable upgrades to the web” to support this shift. That included developing its social media presence on such sites as Facebook and Twitter to better engage online customers and build brand awareness. The company shared these observations in a memo to employees last week from CEO Chris McCormick, but did not include sales figures.

L.L. Bean, No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says it had a strong January and February because it also was able to control expenses.

2009 total sales for Bean were $1.4 billion, down from 2008 as the company had projected. The retailer finished spring 2009 2% below budget and began to bounce back in September and October, but sales fell again over the holiday shopping season, McCormick said.

Bean then adjusted its business strategy to combat slumping sales. “Given our conservative inventory position, we chose to be more selective in our promotions and did not sacrifice margins for volume,” McCormick said. “Our strategy paid off, as 2010 began with customers returning to L.L. Bean in search of value and quality, resulting in our best January and February in years. Strong full-price sales enabled us to regain a good amount of the ground we’d lost in November and December.”

Bean says it will continue to invest in its web channel during 2010. It also plans to move ahead with expansion into China, work to attract younger customers to its brand and launch a new L.L. Bean Signature apparel line this month.

Additionally, for the fourth consecutive year, ForeSee Results, which measures online customer satisfaction, placed LLBean.com at the top of the list for customer satisfaction in the apparel and accessories category, McCormick said.

 

As a result of the 2010 sales upturn, Bean will dole out a 3% cash bonus next week to 5,000 of its employees, McCormick said. He thanked them for helping the company finish an “up and down year on an upswing.” While Bean’s total 2009 sales fell, it is hoping to reverse the trend in 2010 by investing in the web, he said, but did not provide details.

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