L.L. Bean Looks to Kalypso for Continued Product Success

One can only wonder what outdoorsman and entrepreneur Leon Leonwood Bean would think about the "lumberjack chic" teen trend that's driving eye-popping sales of the iconic handcrafted leather and rubber boots his eponymous company L.L Bean has been famous for since he brainstormed them in 1912 to put an end to cold, damp feet on hunting excursions.

In fiscal year 2014 the Freeport, Maine, outdoor apparel company posted annual net revenue of $1.61 billion, up 3 percent year over year, and manufactured 450,000 pairs of Bean boots. This year L.L Bean landed the no. 5 spot on Forbes' Best Employers list, leading all companies in the apparel, footwear and sporting goods vertical. Known for its catalog mail-order business, the company is steadily expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint from a current fleet of 22 stores outside of Maine to 100 by 2020, according to Carolyn Beem, public affairs manager. Four store openings are on tap for 2015, the first of which took place in March in Cleveland — the retailer's first physical foray into Ohio. E-commerce is also doing well; web sales jumped 7 percent last year.

L.L Bean likely wouldn't be in its current position without its legendary commitment to customer service, including a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee — a rare promise in the apparel world. Despite dramatic changes throughout the years, from rapidly evolving technology to changing consumer tastes and management mandates to new product ideas, the company's emphasis to service has never wavered. "Customer service is not just a department but a commitment we all share," says Beem. Indeed, J.D. Power and Associates honored L.L. Bean as achieving "Highest Customer Satisfaction Among Apparel Retailers" in 2012.

L.L. Bean's confidence in its products stems in large part from its strong supplier relationships, some of which span decades, according to Beem, who says the company looks for partners that share the same corporate values. This exclusive number of stable partnerships with select mills and suppliers both large and small enables L.L. Bean to collaborate on fabric development and create innovative new products such as Ultralight down outerwear and packable down apparel. What's more, treating these crucial partners as "part of the family" means the apparel company need not spend countless hours haggling over supplier negotiations.

This focus on and passion for product quality led L.L. Bean to partner more than a year ago with consulting services provider Kalypso, which is offering expert assistance with a PLM implementation. "We were seeking ways to streamline our processes while maintaining a clear focus on research and development and most importantly, product quality," notes Beem.

"Kalypso works with many other respected clients who have a broad array of products. Since we have similar challenges, we felt Kalypso's capabilities would serve us well in our endeavors to maintain a focus on product quality while collaboratively facilitating innovation."

While Beem says it's too soon to measure the results of the PLM deployment, L.L. Bean is pleased with the robust tools that have been developed, which will be instrumental in ensuring seamless collaboration with internal and external teams to reduce development costs, keep them closer to market trends and ensure that products pass their high quality and compliance standards.

Editor's Note: Catch up on all of our 2015 Top Innovators here.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds