Getting into partisan politics (without a pair of duck boots) landed LL Bean in the crosshairs.
With strong post-election tensions, LL Bean is in the spotlight thanks to Linda Bean, heir to fortune Bean, business leader and fan of President-elect Donald Trump. Bean had donated at least $ 30,000 to a pro-Trump political action committee that was only allowed to accept $ 5,000 from her, according to Federal Election Commission documents. (News of the gap was first reported by The Associated Press.) For her part, Bean told “Fox and Friends” on Jan. 12 that she had only donated $ 25. $ 000 to the committee.
Liberals love those behind the online campaign #GrabYourWallet, which is organizing a boycott of brands doing business with the president-elect and his family, calls on their ideological allies to avoid buying from a brand that bears the last name of the staunch Trump supporter. In response, the new commander-in-chief tweeted on Jan.12, encouraging his followers to purchase LL Bean products as a sign of support.
Trump professes his loyalty to the manufacturer of camping and outdoor equipment that markets itself as an American heritage mark. Since its founding in 1912 in Freeport, Maine, the Bean brand has maintained a manufacturing facility in the United States, a rarity for a company that sells across all product categories. LL Bean’s 200,000 square foot flagship store in Freeport juxtaposes the efficiency of Corporate America – it’s open 24/7 – with small town charm. The company boasts of never having locked the doors of the store.
LL Bean tried to distance himself from the controversy over Linda Bean’s largesse. He responded by saying that Linda Bean was one of 50 family members involved in the business and, in a January 8 Facebook FB,
Publish, Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman wrote, “LL Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political issues, or make political contributions. Simply put, we stay out of politics.
But in the age of global supply chains, the situation can be more complex than both sides describe. LL Bean has a factory near Brunswick, Maine, where local workers produce some of the company’s most iconic products, like the signature duck boot. It also has a thriving export business: it had sales of $ 1.5 billion in 2015 and sells to 200 countries, with Canada being a rapidly growing market.
LL Bean decided to appeal to a younger and less American population. Since 2010, he has been organizing a Wturn of intervention, sending a truck in the shape of a duck boot to college campuses in the northeastern, barely conservative hot spots. LL Bean is said to import 75% of its merchandise from overseas, and at least some of its clothing is produced in China and Vietnam, according to sourcing data provider Panjiva. Consumer lawyer and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader wrote in 2011 that over 90% of products were in an LL Bean Christmas catalog were not made in the country. (LL Bean did not respond to request for comment.)
Potential boycotters, on the other hand, should note that snubbing LL Bean could have a negative effect on employees, regardless of their feelings towards Trump. For example, the majority of the company’s 50 retail stores in the United States are located in the Blue States, including New York and Massachusetts. Workers at LL Bean’s overseas manufacturing plants could be injured, as could those at nearly two dozen stores it operates in Japan. (And it’s not the only brand celebrating Americana that makes products overseas. The jeans brand, too. Levi Strauss & Co. and the IT company Apple AAPL,
among many others.)
In addition, a sustained boycott of a brand is also difficult to achieve. Consumers will continue to shop at LL Bean “because of the quality, fit and size of the clothes and shoes they offer,” says Ayako Homma, analyst at Euromonitor International. For example, comedian Whoopi Goldberg separated the personality from politics when she ended a two-year boycott of fast food brand Chick-Fil-A, which the gay rights activist avoided after the Chick-Fil-A president Dan Cathy remarked that supporting same-sex marriage was “inviting judgment from God,” which some saw as homophobic. (Cathy later told USA Today, “We all get wiser over time. We genuinely care about everyone.”)
Whether or not they are the recipients of the praise and criticism of Trump’s social media accounts, brands can benefit from it anyway. Just ask media companies who have seen subscriptions rise as President-elect’s criticism of them intensifies. In his last tweet on the matter, Trump wrote: “Thanks to Linda Bean of LLBean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy LLBean. @LBPerfectMaine ”The president-elect tagged Linda Bean’s Maine lobster business instead of the family’s iconic outdoor brand.