Corey Bouyea, a fixture in the L.L. Bean flagship store, has only briefly left Freeport for his career. He started working in town at the Gap outlet after graduating from the University in Southern Maine. He started working for L.L.Bean 10 years ago and helped open stores for the company in Massachusetts and Maryland, but then came back to Bean, where he is now district manager, overseeing the company’s Freeport stores.

Q: How important is Black Friday for L.L. Bean?

A: We really, for years, have just looked at it as the kickoff to the holiday season. It’s one of our busiest days of the season, but it isn’t usually the busiest, that’s usually the weekend before Christmas. Thanksgiving is a pretty big day for us and it’s part of the heritage and tradition. It’s a fun day, just a true kickoff to the whole season.

Q: Does Bean have any hot items it will be pushing this season?

A: Christmas for us is really all about our core items, shirts and sweaters and outdoor gear and equipment. We certainly put all that stuff front and forward, and we really try to appeal to those doing gift shopping and we queue up those things. We put a lot more strategy in the holiday season and we do a lot of clinics and in-store demonstrations to ramp up the exposure.

Q: How has the season gone so far? Are people buying early?


A: For us, it’s been an early selling season for footwear and outerwear and cold weather gear. That’s a category just off the charts right now. You can see it in the store – we have deep sales reporting and I’m obsessing about it in the morning. Anything cold weather-related right now is performing really well. Weather always plays a big part in our sales and my sense is people seem to be out early this year, buying for themselves and getting a jump start on Christmas shopping. The reps who are working the floor are saying people seem to be jump-starting the shopping earlier and there’s more traffic this year.

Q: Is the economy better? Are lower gas prices giving people a little more to spend this year?

A: I definitely get the sense folks are spending a little bit more. Fall traffic has been good and I’m sure gas plays into that.

Q: How much do you change the store to accommodate the season?

A: We try to strike the right balance in keeping things fresh new and exciting, to appeal to new customers while still staying true to people who have been coming here for decades. We keep the layout of the departments the same, but we also respond to what the customers experience, on the service side and to get in and out on their own quickly.

Q: How much do you ramp up staffing for the season?


A: We’re hiring all year long and when it’s all said and done, by the holiday season, we’ve more than doubled our staffing count and we have a high rehire rate when it comes to seasonal staffers. We’re just lucky in that respect with a lot of loyal seasonal employees. Some are snowbirds who jockey back and forth and stay through early January and then come back in late summer.

Q: Is it hard to hire for the overnight shift, because Bean never closes?

A: It’s easier than you might think. It’s certainly harder to staff a third shift and we do a really early first shift, with some people coming in at 4 a.m. But there is usually somebody for every shift and most of them love it – it works for their lifestyle. We have a very high retention rate with people working that (overnight) shift.

Q: How busy is it overnight?

A: As we get closer to Christmas, the overnight gets to a place I would call busy. People who don’t want to deal with traffic or want a low-key shopping experience come in. But, really, every single night of the year we have people shopping here in the middle of the night.

Q: Do you get any odd requests from customers?

A: We get a bunch of requests for weddings (to be held in the store). We’ve had, since I’ve been here, probably three weddings. I remember one outside, one was at the top of the stairs in the hunting and fishing (department). Last year, a customer wanted us to help select some (Christmas) products for her father, all wrapped up and ready to be given to him when he came in on Christmas Eve. We presented them to him because she couldn’t be there for Christmas. We bend over backward to help.

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