Will Foster, a worker at the L.L. Bean flagship retail store, adjusts display clothing on a mannequin, Thursday, March 18, 2021, in Freeport, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

One of Maine’s most iconic retailers reported a banner year during the pandemic, seeing its largest rise in net revenue in nine years largely due to the popularity of outdoor activities during the coronavirus pandemic.

L.L. Bean reported net revenue of $1.59 billion in fiscal 2020, up 5 percent compared to 2019.  It also gave a performance bonus of 10 percent of annual pay to about 4,600 eligible employees and an additional 8 percent contribution to 401(k) plans. 

The lofty report comes at a time when many retailers have struggled to get foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores and online sales have risen 19 percent, according to Retaildive.com. Maine limited occupancy at stores, and is beginning to relax capacities. Gov. Janet Mills announced in early March that she will change to a percentage of capacity model that will apply to all sectors of the economy. Indoor capacities will be increased to 50 percent later this month and 75 percent before Memorial Day.

Like many other retailers, L.L. Bean closed all U.S. retail locations last March for 10 weeks, but continued online sales and added curbside pickup. That was only the fifth time in the company’s 108-year history that it closed its flagship store in Freeport and the first time it did so for more than 24 hours.

Sales still flourished during the pandemic, with outdoor equipment and stay-at-home items being hot sellers. Water sports equipment sales rose 83 percent, while winter sports equipment was up 49 percent. For the home, outdoor furniture sales rose 97 percent while sleepwear was up 54 percent and slippers, 42 percent.

“The belief in the renewing power of time spent outside was the reason my great-grandfather created this company,” Shawn Gorman, the company’s executive chairman, said.

The peak holiday season in November and December was its busiest in 20 years as shoppers switched to online purchases. Alex Intraversato, vice president of men’s and women’s merchandise, said before the holiday season that L.L. Bean expected strong holiday sales but might have a decline for the entire year because of the store closures. But pandemic sales remained high, and the latest figures are a strong uptick from sales of $1.5 billion in 2019. 

The retailer also started wholesale partnerships for the first time last year with Nordstrom, Zappos, Staples and SCHEELS, a move that put it into 1,200 more stores and online channels. It also launched a collaboration with menswear designer Todd Snyder and added four new stores in Canada.

L.L. Bean also manufactured 350,000 face coverings for MaineHealth and 500,000 face shields for Flowfold.