REINVENTING L.L. BEAN:
LESSONS FOR JEWELERS
The venerable outdoor retailer has retooled
for the '90s and beyond without abandoning tradition
A successful makeover is a real inspiration. Jewelers can take heart,
and maybe glean a few tips, from the transformation of Maine cataloger L.L.
Bean. Once known among marketing experts chiefly for its camera-shy models
and its lack of a toll-free number, L.L. Bean has metamorphosed into an
image-savvy retailer. James R. Rosenfield describes the result in Direct
Rosenfield says the catalog retailer's makeover succeeded so well because
its engineers have what he calls "a sort of premillennial 'perfect
pitch'" they understand the '90s zeitgeist precisely.
For one thing, they know how to appeal to two contradictory consumer
urges - futurism and nostalgia. On the futurism front, L.L. Bean offers
its customers the best technology has to offer, including phone or fax ordering,
a Web site, speedy delivery and package tracking to determine exact delivery
On the nostalgia side, the company has spun an image of down-home, family-oriented
reliability and has heavily emphasized its 86-year history. Its catalogs
carry subliminal messages about the company's old-time solidity, Rosenfield
maintains. Whenever the catalog refers to the company's retail store in
Freeport, Maine, the "R" and "S" are capitalized, suggesting
an iconic durability. The store is presented as much more than a place to
buy things. It's a destination for annual pilgrimages, Rosenfield points
out. "Many families make it a tradition to visit our Retail Store during
the holiday season," the catalog tells us.
Consumers of the '90s also want to reduce the stress in their lives,
Rosenfield says. L.L. Bean is right on the money again, offering the soothing
balm of a trusted brand name, which in L.L. Bean's case is repeated as often
as possible in catalog product descriptions. Surely there will be no stress-inducing
surprises from "Bean's Sub-Zero Boots," "Bean's 'Camp' Sweater"
or any other Bean-branded item. Nor do customers have to suffer from decision-anxiety
about which brand to buy. L.L. Bean is nearly the only brand they can choose.
The company also captures the spirit of the age by imparting a sense
of homey smallness despite its huge size. (Rosenfield says corporate mergers
and other societal trends toward gigantism have made us favor smaller operations
over larger institutions.) "It is, after all, an enormous company that
pretends, quite successfully, to be a little old store in the middle of
Nowhere, Maine," Rosenfield writes. What could be more '90s?
How Jewelers Can Apply Bean's Principles
- Use the latest technology to offer the best service, but practice old-fashioned
friendliness to build relationships.
- Build your store into a destination, especially on holiday occasions.
Plan events you repeat yearly and remind customers of the tradition.
- Help your customers to reduce buyer stress and anxiety by creating
trust in your store's name, not a bunch of other brand names.
- If you're growing - or big already - keep each store feeling like a
single independent jeweler. Dark tales of huge corporate mergers have made
consumers increasingly distrustful of "big."
|| At first glance, the cover of this 1997 holiday catalog
from L.L. Bean is all about nostalgia, featuring a snowy log cabin decorated
simply with a traditional wreath. But note the prominent placement of the
FedEx® delivery information, letting consumers know they can have their
merchandise in hand the next day. Inside, the catalog offers on-line shopping,
gift certificates (for those hard-to-buy-for friends and relatives) and
an L.L. Bean Visa card (with free shipping, preview of sale merchandise
and points toward future purchases).|
Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.