Iconic outdoor outfitter L.L.Bean, buoyed by its successful launch a year ago in Canada, is set to aggressively expand the brand throughout the country in the coming years, starting with four new stores in Ontario by the end of 2020.
The American outdoor retailer launched its Canadian e-commerce site in the fall of 2018, followed by the launch of a Canada-specific catalog and the opening of the first Canadian store in Oakville, Ont., in August 2019.
“The success of L.L.Bean in Oakville has been encouraging, and the new stores across Ontario will widen the reach to our loyal Canadian customer base. We’re excited to work with L.L.Bean to expand the iconic brand in Canada and to encourage outdoor activities with family and friends,” said Howie Kastner, President of Toronto-based Jaytex Group, which has a long-term exclusive license for Canada for L.L.Bean wholesale and retail.
Its second store will open Friday in the Georgian Mall in Barrie. The Ottawa Train Yards store is scheduled to open in the third week in August. A small outlet store is set to open in early September in Vaughan Mills near Toronto. And toward the end of September or early October, L.L.Bean will open a store in the CF Shops at Don Mills in Toronto.
Each location will feature a unique store design and a curated assortment of footwear, apparel, and outdoor essentials informed by Canadian customer feedback.
The opening of the three new L.L.Bean locations reflects the company’s continued success in the Canadian market, accelerated by strong year-over-year sales and new customer growth.
“We opened Oakville in August (2019) and it was just a fantastic opening. We always knew that there was a strong, loyal L.L.Bean customer in the country and we proved that when the store opened. We had a successful opening and that continued right through the fall holiday season,” said Kastner. “We were very happy with the results, which in turn led us to start looking for other locations.”
“Of course, we had to shut down for the spring (due to COVID-19). We reopened Oakville in Phase One. It started soft but every day is getting better and now that Oakville has moved into Phase Two we’re seeing a lot more traffic and we’re obviously quite happy with sales.”
Kastner said the company plan is to have up 20 stores across the country. Next year, it is looking at opening in the Maritimes because there’s a very strong L.L. Bean customer in that region due to the proximity to the corporate base in Freeport, Maine.
“Right now, we’re looking at opportunities in the Halifax area. So we will open one next year and then after that we’ll start to look at other opportunities. We’ll start to move West. We’re going to continue the growth. It’s going to be calculated. Location has to be right. The centre has to be right. And the demographic has to be right. We’re still targeting 20 stores,” said Kastner.
L.L.Bean, Inc. is a leading multichannel merchant of quality outdoor gear and apparel. Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company began as a one-room operation selling a single product, the Maine Hunting Shoe. L.L.Bean is a family-owned Maine company, led by Executive Chairman, Shawn Gorman, the great grandson of Leon Leonwood Bean, and Stephen Smith, President and CEO. L.L.Bean currently operates 54 stores across the United States and 28 stores in Japan. The 220,000-square-foot L.L.Bean retail store campus in Freeport, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and welcomes more than three million visitors every year.
Greg Elder, Vice President of Retail and International for L.L.Bean, said the positive response to its first store opening accelerated its expansion plan for this year despite the economic downturn.
“We’re extremely grateful to our Canadian customers for welcoming us, and the continued success really speaks to the strength of the brand, the relevance of our iconic products and the kinship we share in the inherent love and care for the outdoors,” he said.
“We’re extremely mindful of how and where we grow,” said Stephen Smith, President and CEO of L.L.Bean. “We’re excited to be able to offer our Canadian neighbours more options in more locations around the country this year, and to provide them the outdoor essentials they need to enjoy the many restorative benefits of being outside. We look forward to building on that relationship with our Canadian customers for years to come.”
Kastner said Canadian consumers are familiar with the family brand which is outdoor and active. It resonates well with the Canadian consumer and there is a strong e-commerce presence.
“People love the brand,” he said.