Recently, one of my favorite stores, L.L. Bean, delighted the national media and the public with it’s announcement that it will now offer free shipping for all merchandise for all of it’s customers. Very nice. However, this news didn’t really cause me to dance joyously in a pair of Casco Bay Boat Shoes. Sure, everyone loves free shipping, but as an “Outdoor Advantage” card member I already enjoy free shipping, along with 100% unconditional free return shipping, free monograming, and frequent $10 coupon earnings.
L.L. Bean merchandise is always top quality, albeit rather pricy. They have even added a new high end “classic” fashion line featuring attractive yet even more exorbitantly priced clothing and accessories marked by a kind of retro-ultra preppy Americana kind of look. Ironically though, very few of their clothing items carry a “Made in USA” label.
Lately my biggest issue has been with the way in which they handle their inventory. A greater percentage of their extensive catalog offerings are listed on long term back order (a monogrammed black dress shirt I ordered a few weeks ago won’t be available until May 15th). Many seasonal items eventually become available with sharp price reductions but usually disappear from the website extremely quickly with only a few awkward sizes and colors remaining, if any at all. A twelve dollar pair of cargo pants is nice but not necessarily in orange 42 inch waist with a 28 inch inseam.
Happily, the company has announced that it will double the coupon earnings for members to 3 cents per dollar spent and/or 1 cent per dollar spent for Bean purchases and/or overall purchases, respectively. Perhaps our love for free shipping will widen the stores customer base to the point of spurring more frequent sales and greater flow and variety of inventory. Or will continued price increases offset the free shipping customer advantage? Their website, which is excellent and generally a pleasure to navigate, states that the company plans members only sales, which I, of course, greatly look forward to. However, I must admit that although I strive to be a down-to-earth, yet stylish, all-around-egalitarian, yet generous sort, I’ve come to surmise that membership has it’s privileges– unless everybody is a member!