L.L. Bean Is Scrambling to Keep Up With Surging Demand for Its Boots

L.L. Bean workers need 26 weeks of training to learn how to stitch the company’s famed boots.
L.L. Bean workers need 26 weeks of training to learn how to stitch the company’s famed boots. –L.L. Bean

Anyone hoping to survive winter the quintessentially Boston way may be without one key item this shopping season — L.L. Bean’s signature bean boots.

Between 60,000-100,000 people have placed orders for the boots that won’t be delivered until after the holidays, according to L.L. Bean spokesperson Carolyn Beem. In all, the company said they anticipate selling “in the range’’ of 450,000 pairs of bean boots this year, a significant increase over last year.

Why the increase in sales? Well, blame teens and millennials.

“Younger people are buying them. They’re all over college campuses and high schools,’’ Beem said. “Without changing anything, they’re back in style.’’

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In an attempt to make up the shortage, L.L. Bean spent $1 million to purchase another molding machine that makes the rubber bottoms of the shoes, Beem said. The rubber bottoms are made in Lewiston, Maine, while the stitching of the leather tops takes place in Brunswick, Maine.

“We’ve bumped up production – we have three shifts going, we’re hiring new people,’’ Beem said. “We’re doing all we can to lessen the wait time.’’

Making more boots is also a slow process given the specialization needed to produce the hand-crafted boots. Perfecting the stitching process takes 26 weeks, or half a year, of training, Beem said.

A trip to the L.L. Bean website showed some of the shortage issues this Cyber Monday. Almost all sizes for the men’s 8’’ bean boots and the women’s 8’’ bean boots have their earliest shipping dates listed as January or February on the company’s site. For example, the men’s size-seven, Medium D-width bean boot won’t ship until February 24 at the earliest.

That might make for a nice St. Patrick’s Day gift, but unless something dramatic changes won’t make it under the Christmas tree this winter.

That’s at least better than the women’s size-eight, Medium B-width bean boots, which simply say “Sold Out’’ in bright red letters.

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There is some hope for the bean boot obsessives out there, though. A men’s shoe, wide EE, size eight or nine is listed as being available December 13. That’s just enough time for the non-procrastinators out there to have them wrapped up and ready for your loved ones (or yourself). Or you could go the used route and bid on these eBaybeanboots.

That is, unless someone has already bought up that limited supply in the time it took to read this article.

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