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LL Bean says it's ready to make $100M in capital investments after 4 years of revenue gains

PORTLAND, Maine - Coming off record profits and four years of revenue growth, L.L. Bean is ready to make the biggest single-year capital investment in the retailer's 102-year history, the company's CEO said Friday.

Chris McCormick, president and chief executive, told workers that the Maine-based retailer has been conservative for the past few years and is now ready to "accelerate our growth plans and grab market share." That plan includes pumping an additional $100 million into its website, retail expansion and business systems, he said.

"The past few years have focused on prudent management of the business, conservative growth plans and getting our organization ready to compete in a changing marketplace. The investments we've made position us well as we take this next step," he told the company's 5,100 full- and part-time workers.

L.L. Bean finished its fiscal year that ended last month with sales of $1.56 billion, a gain of 3 per cent over the previous year, the privately held company said. It said it had record-breaking profits, but it didn't share those figures.

The company's performance beat the industry average. For the year, revenue grew about 2.5 per cent across 122 retailers, said Ken Perkins, president of RetailMetrics, a retail research firm.

L.L. Bean's board was happy enough with the performance to authorize a bonus of 8 per cent on the annual salary of full-time workers. That amounts to $2,800 for someone making $35,000 and is the biggest bonus since 2005, said company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem.

The company said it saw growth in key areas, luring younger customers with its Signature line and boosting its online presence while reducing the number of catalogue pages.

The company also got a boost from sales of its iconic rubber-soled hunting boot, which has become popular on college campuses and beyond for snowy and rainy days.

The company sold 400,000 pairs of boots and struggled to keep up with demand, especially after December orders totalled more than 130,000 pairs, the company said. There are about 20,000 pairs of the Maine-made boots on back order, and the company is rushing to train additional workers to make them.

McCormick said he was especially gratified by the company's performance given the economic uncertainties. He also said the company plans to add 100 workers in the coming year.

"L.L. Bean has performed very well in a marketplace that continued to struggle — with economic uncertainty, political distractions and shaky consumer confidence," he said.

The Canadian Press

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