FREEPORT, Maine — With its best year of sales ever under its belt, retailer L.L. Bean is investing in its future.
The iconic Maine company announced Friday it had record net sales of $1.56 billion in fiscal year 2013 and now plans to invest $100 million in technology, an expansion of its Signature line and the construction of four new stores.
“L.L.Bean has performed very well in a marketplace that continued to struggle with economic uncertainty, political distractions and shaky consumer confidence,” Chris McCormick, the company’s president and chief executive officer, said in a news release.
McCormick said L.L. Bean saw a 3 percent increase in sales over 2012. The banner year has translated into 8 percent bonuses for its 5,000 or so full-time and part-time employees.
“The company’s solid performance in fiscal 2013 is the result of a lot of hard work and dedication of our employees,” McCormick said. “The positive performance is also the outcome of strategies and investments put in motion in 2010 while the economy was still in a recession.”
McCormick attributed the successful year to investments in the company’s website and internal processes aimed at providing better product assortment and customer service.
“These investments have paid off in increased online sales, greater productivity and wide appeal for new fits and styles in men’s, women’s and outerwear, as well as an expanded Active line,” he said.
The company also saw growth in sporting equipment, with strong performance in its hunting and fishing lines as people continue to spend more time outdoors, he said, adding, “Our Maine-made L.L.Bean Boot production is at an all-time high, demonstrating Bean’s first product is as relevant today as it was 101 years ago.”
Looking ahead to 2014, McCormick said the company plans to make the largest single-year capital investment in its 101-year history. The company’s $100 million investment is earmarked for improvements to its website and business systems — as well as its retail presence.
“We will be opening four new stores, expanding our Signature product line and growing the brand as we see continued strengthening of the economy,” he said. Company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem said Friday that the location of the four new stores has yet to be determined.
As a result of the company’s robust performance, its board of directors approved the big bonus for employees.
“On behalf of the board of directors, I would like to express our appreciation to the L.L.Bean employees that made this happen,” board Chairman Shawn Gorman said Friday.
“This year-end bonus is in recognition of their hard work and a tribute to the strategies and investments we set in motion in 2010 that positioned the company for growth,” he said. “We have an amazingly talented team in place and are pleased to continue the family’s commitment to keeping employee and shareholder interests aligned and reward our employees for their hard work, dedication and achievements.”
In addition to the bonus, the company told employees that it will contribute $40 million to fully fund its defined benefit pension program. Combined with the bonus, this represents a $78.5 million investment in L.L.Bean employees, the company stated.