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February 10, 2017

L.L.Bean offers buyouts, rethinking its return policies

COURTESY / KMF146, FLICKR
COURTESY / KMF146, FLICKR
L.L.Bean announced a number of cost-cutting measures it's going to implement or consider, including a review of its generous return policies and free shipping.

L.L.Bean's announcement that it's moving to cut costs included the typical measures of offering voluntary early retirements and freezing pensions. But the Portland Press Herald reports that the Freeport-based outdoors retailer also is rethinking policies that affect shoppers, most notably its free shipping and "satisfaction" guaranteed return policies.

The Press Herald reported Thursday that L.L.Bean will freeze its defined-benefit pension plan and boost its 401(k) savings contributions to all 5,000 workers, including 1,000 out-of-state store employees who were not previously eligible for the full pension

Company officials told the newspaper it's part of a comprehensive look at all aspects of the business, including the "satisfaction" guarantee posted prominently on the company's website:

"We make pieces that last, and if they don't, we want to know about it. L.L. himself always said that he 'didn't consider a sale complete until goods are worn out and the customer still satisfied.' Our guarantee is a handshake — a promise that we'll be fair to each other. So if something's not working or fitting or standing up to its task or lasting as long as you think it should, we'll take it back. We want to make sure we keep our guarantee the way it's always been for over a century."

Bangor Daily News reported that L.L.Bean, the state's fifth-largest employer with between 4,000 and 4,500 employees, would offer a voluntary early retirement program to eligible employees in early 2018 that would include a "buyout" enhancement to their pension benefits and a stipend to offset health insurance premium costs for up to two years.

The newspaper reported that the company's "redesigned benefits program" would include expanded parental leave, eldercare support, more flexible time off and enhanced contributions to 401(k) plans.

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