Hey ladies, are you sick of pounding the pavement in sky-high heels? Here's some good news: Comfort is making a comeback.
L.L.Bean, the 102-year-old boot-maker based in Freeport, Maine, has seen such a surge in demand for its iconic "Bean" boot, that it's had to double its manufacturing capacity to try to keep up. The company has also added a third shift to its production schedule and increased its number of boot-makers by 55 percent, hiring an additional 100 people at its Brunswick, Maine, facility to produce the boots.
Even still, some versions of the boot, which start at $109, are back ordered until April. The company expects it will sell 450,000 pairs of the boots this year.
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"There's a look out there right now that's sort of fashioned after the lumberjack kind of look, and the original L.L.Bean boot happens to be the one key piece that starts that look," Ken Kacere, senior vice president at L.L.Bean, said.
Trends have been hard to come by for the retail industry over the past year, but one theme has reigned dominant in both apparel and footwear: comfort. Back in November, Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser wrote in a note to investors that the best-performing boots are those with comfort, waterproof and classic features—all key components to the "Bean" boot.
The style doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. Looking ahead to 2015, Poser noted earlier this month that "brands that have heritage and/or a comfort story are getting the most interest." He listed Skechers, Birkenstock, Naturalizer, UGG and "almost any items with an athletic influence" as gaining traction.
Separately, a survey by Evercore ISI found that L.L.Bean is the No. 1 footwear brand teens and young adults would like to own, at 26 percent. Nike ranked second at 13 percent, followed by Steve Madden and Ralph Lauren/Polo.
Companywide, L.L.Bean has hired roughly 5,000 seasonal employees this year. In 2013, the privately held company said its net sales were $1.56 billion.