Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Maine's premiere brand moving westward

L.L. Bean, Maine’s venerable outdoor gear and apparel outfitter, is expanding its retail operations outside of New England, with the planned opening of a 30,000 square foot store, in a Chicago suburb.

The 30,000-square-foot store will be located at the Arboretum at South Barrington, a retail center that is now under construction in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. The store will be built according to U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standards, which according to MediaPost’s Marketing Daily, will incorporate “the creative use of recycled and reclaimed materials as well as state of the art energy efficient heating, cooling and lighting systems.”

The expansion into the Chicago area is part of a larger retail expansion strategy, L.L. Bean officials said. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, the Arboretum of South Barrington is an open-air shopping center spanning 86 acres. Tenants include retailers Ann Taylor Loft, Victoria's Secret and Circuit City.

"L.L. Bean has many catalog and web customers in the Chicago area, which is one of our largest markets," Ken Kacere, the company's senior vice-president of retail, says in a statement. "Our new stores will showcase a unique product selection for our active outdoor customers."

The South Barrington store will employ about 125 people. In addition to selling gear and clothing, the store will include an Outdoor Discovery School for customers to learn about kayaking, fly fishing and other sports for which L. L. Bean’s products are used.

The company, founded in 1912, by Leon Leonwood Bean, has grown from a one-man operation to a global enterprise, with annual sales of $1.5 billion. The Chicago area store is the first L.L. Bean retail store west of Philadelphia and is part of the company’s plans to open up to nine new stores by 2012.

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