Suffering from Success – L.L. Bean & The Duck Boot

For the third straight winter, L.L. Bean’s iconic duck boots are backordered, with some orders being delayed into Spring 2016. The Maine-based manufacturer has seen explosive growth in the last four years, with their products catching the eye of trend-focused, outdoors-oriented consumers. The company has consistently invested in increased manufacturing capabilities since the brand’s renaissance, but is still seeing difficulty with maintaining their service level to the market.

The increased focus on Americana has largely contributed to the resurgence of the traditional duck boot. Although lacking in aesthetic appeal, the guaranteed functionality of the design bonded with the quality materials has built a cult following for over 100 years. Other American retailers, like Red Wing, Wolverine, and Chippewa have seen a similar spotlight on their classic products that communicate quality and durability.

These brands have all seen the rewards of making the difficult business decision of keeping their products domestically produced. ‘Made in USA’ has been a true differentiator, while most prominent have transplanted their production overseas to save crucial input dollars.

The exclusivity of the brand is also a key driver for their popularity, with the duck boot being the go-to status symbol for the fashion-conscious in winter-intensive locales. The classic fashion-marketing trick of ‘for cool kids only’ is encouraging vintage duck boots to be repaired or bought via a secondary market like eBay.

L.L. Bean is a great example of a brand getting the success it deserves from building an unadulterated bond with their consumer. Being a leader in customer service and providing consistent quality has allowed the brand to reach their current peak. The true power of the timeless Duck Boot will depend on its ability to bring attention to other L.L. Bean products, and bridge the gap between Americana celebrity and long-term retail powerhouse.

By Amit Kalra, #TPGAmit

Photo by Jordan Ross (Flickr)

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