December 13, 2006

Virtual CEO: L.L. Bean

The Harvard Business Review publishes free weekly podcasts. Podcast number nineteen featured an interview with Leon Gorman, Chairman of L.L. Bean. Mr. Gorman spoke about L.L. Bean's multichannel growth strategy, which includes retail expansion on the East Coast.

Mr. Gorman states that sales via the online channel have exceeded sales in the catalog channel, and that he believes customers need catalogs, websites and retail stores in order to have a comprehensive multichannel shopping experience.

Time for you to play Virtual CEO. If you were CEO of L.L. Bean, and had access to an additional twenty million dollars, how would you invest that money?

Would you mail more catalogs? Would you invest in online marketing? How about traditional advertising channels like television, radio, newspapers, or magazines? Would you build new stores? If you chose to build new stores, would you build them in the Northeast, where L.L. Bean has brand recognition, or would you push the L.L. Bean retail chain to new markets like Chicago, or even Denver?

Realistically, L.L. Bean has maximized its direct-to-consumer audience. If Bean wants to grow, it almost has no choice but to invest in the retail channel. It should be fun to watch the evolution of this business. It's a shame they aren't publicly traded --- if they were, we'd have access to more financial information!

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