L.L. Bean explores a buyout of competitor

Now with Eddie Bauer's parent company, Spiegel, in Chapter 11, L.L. Bean is exploring the possibility of purchasing all or part of Eddie Bauer once it comes out, said Rich Donaldson, spokesman, L.L. Bean.

"We are in the very early stages of exploration," he told HTT. However, "it remains unclear how Eddie Bauer will emerge once it exits its proceedings" — it may be sold in parts, for example, or have new owners.

Both known for their rugged, outdoor brands, the two specialty retailers are also similar in how they are structured. "We've regarded Eddie Bauer as a competitor for some time, as we compete with them with retail stores, catalogs and e-commerce — the balance of sales between the channels may be different, but operationally we're the same."

But L.L. Bean plans on growing its store base, which currently consists of five units: one each in New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and here, as well as a hunting and fishing store here. Currently, Eddie Bauer has 529 stores, of which 60 will close.

"We're very methodical with our regional [store] expansion," Donaldson said, adding that it will proceed very carefully, given the challenges in retail.

"Our overriding objective is to grow top-line sales, with an eye toward building the overall business and the brand," he said. New stores would introduce the brand to new customers, who then would be inclined to shop L.L. Bean's other channels.

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