As it approaches its 100th anniversary, L.L. Bean Inc. is not the same type of retailer it was a century ago. The company started out as a manufacturer and seller of hunting boots, became a catalog merchant, branched into retail store sales, and now is involved in online retailing. Its evolution has prompted L.L. Bean, based in Freeport, Maine, USA, to modify its supply chain to reflect the many ways it does business today.
Five years ago, it became apparent that L.L. Bean's existing fulfillment strategy was causing inventory levels to rise. That led the company to take a hard look at its inventory and distribution practices.
The iconic retailer has since revamped its inventory policies with multi-channel sales in mind. A better understanding of product lifecycles together with improved forecasting helped it reduce overstocks of seasonal inventory, improve availability of products customers buy all year long, and reduce warehousing costs.
It all started with a boot
The story goes that Leon Leonwood Bean came back from a hunting trip unhappy because of his cold, damp feet. Bean hit upon the idea of stitching leather uppers to workmen's rubber boots to create more comfortable, water-resistant footwear for tramping through the Maine woods. In 1912 he founded the company bearing his name to sell his unique "Maine Hunting Shoe," working out of the basement of his brother's apparel shop.
A century later, the company still sells the original hunting boot (a 16-foot sculpture of one stands outside its flagship store in Freeport). Today L.L. Bean also offers hundreds of other products, including apparel for men, women, and children, footwear, and, of course, outdoor gear for camping, fishing, hiking, and other sports. Sales reached about US $1.5 billion in 2010.
L.L. Bean still produces its signature boots in the United States. It has two manufacturing facilities in Maine that make boots and tote bags and perform some customization of other manufactured products....