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L.L. Bean’s CEO: Pandemic-Driven Outdoor Boom Is Not A Trend

L.L. Bean’s CEO: Pandemic-Driven Outdoor Boom Is Not A Trend

L.L. Bean's CEO CEO: Pandemic-Driven Outdoor Boom Is Not A Trend

Nine months into the pandemic, consumers have a newfound appreciation for outdoor activities such as boating, traveling in RVs and camping. And if recent spending data is any indication, they are unlikely to go back to their old ways even after the pandemic recedes. 

“We feel like this is not a trend, this is a connection back to nature,” said L.L. Bean’s CEO Stephen Smith in a “Squawk on the Street” interview. “It’s an understanding of, you know, the physical and mental benefits of being outside, and we think that that will continue into 2021.”

The clothing and outdoor recreation equipment retailer saw triple-digit growth in sales across multiple categories, with more consumers shopping for cross country skis and other equipment heading into the fall season, CNBC reported. Sales of products in the winter sports category increased by 165 percent, sales of snow tubes were up 114 percent and snowshoe sales increased by a stunning 340 percent.

And now, with the winter season approaching, more consumers are investing in outdoor gear they can use in the 2021 spring season, Smith noted.

“We feel really good about where we are heading into the spring and summer. So many new outdoor enthusiasts with new gear, new activities, a new connection to the outdoors,” Smith said. “The fact that we’ve seen winter gear selling so early, we’re already seeing some signs of preorders around spring and summer activities.”

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For the Freeport, Maine-based retailer, enabling access to omnichannel features has been critical to engaging customers during the pandemic, regardless of whether they choose to shop online or in brick and mortar stores. That being said, physical stores will continue to play a key role because consumers want to be able to touch and feel the products they are buying, but retailers must enable access to digital options that allow their customers to shop in-store with ease, according to Smith.

“As customers change, the best retailers need to change with them,” Smith told CNBC.

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