A UPS truck turns onto Campus Drive at L.L.Bean’s Fulfillment and Returns Center in Freeport. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

L.L.Bean is confident but expecting some shipment delays heading into the holiday season amid the global supply-chain challenges that are impacting retail stores nationwide.

“We have experienced the same challenges as other retailers, but we have also anticipated the ongoing disruption and demand and acted proactively to build inventory to the extent possible,” wrote company spokesperson Jason Sulham in an email. “As a result, we feel confident about our supply heading into peak season, but delays are still to be expected and we are being transparent with our customers.”

L.L.Bean was founded in 1912 in Freeport, where today the company remains headquartered. There are 66 locations in the U.S. and Canada, and the company specializes in outdoor clothing and recreational equipment.

According to Sulham, L.L.Bean has over 4,000 employees, with about 120 job openings companywide as of Tuesday. According to a report from the Maine Department of Labor, in the second quarter of 2020 L.L.Bean was the eleventh largest private employer in the state.

Data from a U.S. Census Bureau survey that took place in May and June showed that over 50% of respondents in retail trade reported experiencing domestic supply delays. Retail businesses ranked third highest in reporting delays in the survey, with construction second and manufacturing first. Sulham declined to release supply-chain metrics for the company.

While the company’s well-known “Bean Boot” product is made in Maine, L.L.Bean operates through a global supply-chain, Sulham said. The current supply challenges spread across inventory, Sulham said, and are not impacting one type of product in particular.


“In addition to the supply-chain complications, we have also seen just a general surge in demand for outdoor products and indoor comforts – which is fantastic, but it does mean more people are searching for the same items,” Sulham said. “To avoid disappointment, we encourage our customers not to wait and don’t be discouraged if something is backordered – place your order now to make sure it’s here for the holidays.”

In multiple categories the company is forecasting double-digit increases compared to 2020, and triple digit increases compared to 2019 for this year, Sulham said.

According to Ayman Omar, a professor and expert in global supply-chains at American University with a PhD in supply-chain management, the issues in supply that we are seeing today are exacerbated by COVID-19, although extend much further than just the pandemic.

“What we are seeing now is the symptoms of or the outcomes of a bad storm coming in place in a situation that was not addressed overtime,” Omar said.

Even before the pandemic, Omar said, labor shortages among truck drivers and infrastructure capacity at ports, for example, were already at the breaking point. When the pandemic came, Omar said, there was some slack in the supply-chain as people stayed home and demand lowered. Now that more people have resumed shopping as well as ordering products online, however, demand is back.

“Demand has gone up, capacity of the ports, and the speed of getting product in and out, that did not go up with the same pace, and again I’m not just talking about the last year, that has been going on now for a while,” Omar said. “During COVID and as of now, this was even a much worse issue, because a lot of the labor supply has gone to other jobs.”


In addition to this, Omar said, a lack of visibility and fluid communication among entities within the supply-chain has prevented timely reactions to issues that may occur. Omar said he believes this is an issue that must be addressed through a partnership between the private and public sectors.

Finally, Omar added, as consumers hear the news about supply shortages, more people than usual will go out to purchase products, further straining the ratio of supply to demand.

“L.L.Bean is an incredible partner for the town of Freeport in that it is a large draw to Freeport and has a tremendous retail following,” said Freeport Economic Development Corporation President Mary Davis.

Davis said she hasn’t heard concerns about inventory and supply-chain impacts from retail partners, although challenges around local labor and staff shortages persist. Summer 2021 was very strong for retail, Davis said, and the town is hopeful for the upcoming holiday season.

“During our holiday season, which is November, December and January we have tremendous business that is around holiday shopping and holiday entertainment,” Davis said. “Economically the holiday season that is coming in front of us is very important.”

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