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In 1911, an avid outdoorsman named Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean returned from a hunting trip with cold, damp feet and a revolutionary idea. L.L. enlisted a local cobbler to stitch leather uppers to workmen’s rubber boots, creating a comfortable, functional boot for exploring the woods. This innovative boot — the Maine Hunting Shoe — changed outdoor footwear forever and began one of the most successful family-run businesses in the country.
L.L. began his business by working out of the basement of his brother’s apparel shop. In 1912, he obtained a mailing list of nonresident Maine hunting license holders and prepared a three-page flyer that boldly proclaimed, “You cannot expect success hunting deer or moose if your feet are not properly dressed. The Maine Hunting Shoe is designed by a hunter who has tramped the Maine woods for the last 18 years. We guarantee them to give perfect satisfaction in every way.” One hundred orders came in for his new product. However, L.L. did not meet with immediate success. The rubber bottoms separated from the leather tops and 90 of those first 100 pairs were returned. Although it nearly put him out of business, L.L. kept his word and refunded the purchase price. He borrowed more money, corrected the problem and, with undiminished confidence, mailed more brochures. L.L. had learned the value of personally testing his products, of honest advertising based on firm convictions, and of keeping the customer satisfied at any cost. L.L.Bean Inc. quickly established itself as a trusted source for reliable outdoor equipment and expert advice. The small company grew. Customers spread the word of L.L.Bean’s quality and service.
L.L. focused on the essentials. Employees also understood that the business of L.L.Bean was to provide high-quality products backed by excellent service. When L.L. started his company, his view of serving the customer was as revolutionary as his product. L.L. said, “A customer is the most important person ever in this office – in person or by mail.” Whether seeking expert advice, purchasing goods, returning or exchanging anything from L.L.Bean, customers quickly learned L.L.Bean wasn’t like other companies
of the day. L.L. set the standard for customer service in 1912 and his service-based philosophy is a fundamental belief that resonates throughout the company today.
It’s been an amazing journey during the past 100 years and we are proud to have developed a reputation for being one of America’s most beloved brands, well-known for stellar products and a customer service ethos that has become the benchmark of the retail industry.
And while we are indeed celebrating our 100th anniversary, we are not doing so by looking back, but rather facing the direction we always have: forward. And we look forward to another 100 years of ongoing product innovation, expertise and sharing our passion for the outdoors with future generations. ♦
L.L.Bean: Celebrating 100 years of exploring the outdoor