BANGOR, Maine — L.L. Bean will close its Bangor call center in late spring 2016, a company official confirmed Wednesday night.
Affected employees were informed of the company’s plan to close the call center earlier in the day, spokeswoman Carolyn Beem confirmed Wednesday night. She said that factors in the company’s decision to close the center included infrastructure and the Internet.
Beem said that the Bangor customer service center, one of three in Maine, employs about 220 people, most of whom work there part time and receive benefits. During the peak sales season, namely the weeks leading up to Christmas, another 500 to 600 part-time workers are added, she said.
L.L. Bean owns its two call centers in Portland and Lewiston but leases the Bangor facility from the city, so Beem said it made more sense to invest in improvements to the other two properties.
In addition, she said, orders placed by telephone are declining.
“People are doing a lot more online,” she said.
Bangor workers will have the options of working at other L.L. Bean facilities or from their homes, she said. Those who choose not to continue with the company will be offered severance packages.
Beem said that the L.L. Bean outlet store in Bangor will remain open.
The decision to close the Bangor call center was not an easy one to make, Beem said.
“We’ve been extremely happy with the employees at our Bangor facility,” she said, adding that they are “world class” workers. “It was a very tough decision and we wanted to give them the longest lead time possible.
Tanya Emery, the city’s director of community and economic development, said the city’s experience with L.L. Bean has been good and that the city will do what it can to help the company and the affected workers through what she called a challenging time but noted that there is not much the city can do given the company’s changing business model.
She said that L.L. Bean has offered to help the city market the space that it eventually will vacate. Ideally, she said, a single company might be found to lease the 30,000-square-foot space. However, if that does not come to pass, the building could be divided into two smaller spaces.
“It’s a very well-maintained, beautiful building,” she said.
Founded in 1912 and headquartered in Freeport, L.L. Bean is known around the world for its durable, high-quality sporting goods and casual clothing and footwear, among other things. It also is famous for its liberal return policy.
L.L. Bean opened its Bangor call center in September 2005 in a former Irving Oil Co. office building at the corner of Maine Avenue and Godfrey Boulevard, near Bangor International Airport.
In addition to a sea of cubicles, the Bangor customer service center includes a kitchen and dining area, an employee fitness center and a display area containing one of virtually every item being sold in a given season’s catalog.
The retailer initially leased the city-owned building for five years at $19,375 a month, with options to renew the lease.
The city bought the building from Irving for $2.7 million, provided a total of $981,900 for building improvements and expanded the parking lot.
The Bangor call center is not the first one that L.L. Bean has closed. In the spring of 2010, the company closed its Waterville customer service center after 12 years of operation. The Waterville operation was consolidated with the company’s other call centers in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor. The Waterville facility employed about 200 people year-round and about 500 more during the Christmas season.