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Not many centennials worry about new images, but as L.L. Bean approaches 100 years old, the retailer best known for its rustic outdoor apparel and sporting goods is creating a new line, L.L. Bean Signature, to add some fashion to its styles.

L.L Bean apparel has gained an image of being dowdy, focusing too much on comfort and not enough on style, which results in products such as relaxed “mom” jeans. These items are great for a baby boomer target market, but younger consumers avoid them at all costs. In an effort to appeal to a younger audience, the company has brought in some fashion designers to create the Signature line, which it plans to maintain as a permanent edition, with special merchandising in stores. In the future, it may even gain its own stand-alone stores in metropolitan locations.

Even as it expands though, the L.L. Bean brand recognizes that its heritage is greatly appealing to many customers. Other brands have made similar moves into greater fashion, such as Ralph Lauren’s introduction of Rugby and Abercrombie & Fitch’s transition from a sporting products retailer to the hip, youth-oriented center of controversy it is today. L.L. Bean might not want to follow a similar path.

Most consumers worry about the fashion aspects of the products they buy. The goal for the retailer is to get younger consumers to appreciate the LL Bean heritage—in the form of plaid patterns, sailboat abstracts, and hunting jackets—but still offer enough flair to make them comfortable wearing the clothes at a party with friends, rather than just out on the hunting grounds.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it a good decision for L.L. Bean to pursue a more fashionable image?
  2. Can L.L. Bean succeed with this new Signature L.L. Bean brand?

Christopher Muther, “Designer Alex Carleton Has Been Handed a Tall Order: Give Maine-Based L.L. Bean Some Edge,” Boston.com, October 29, 2009.