A couple weeks ago, an L. L. Bean pop-up store showed up on UNH campus and I was able to meet two of their great employees from the mobile team. It was a hectic time with a lot of curious visitors. I started talking with Ariel and then Ben joined our conversation. Both team members are very knowledgeable and excited about the cause. In free time, they like to “be an outsider”
In this interview:
- 2 Experiential Marketing campaigns
- Why Bean Boot didn’t show up?
- How do people make buying decisions?
What is your position at L. L. Bean and how long have you been working here?
Ariel: I worked for L. L. Bean for almost a year and had a number of jobs at the company during that time currently in a Retail Management position on the mobile selling team. I actually started a few weeks ago and I support the retail side of the pop-up shop, where we travel around the country to sell and promote L. L. Bean.
How many people are here with you?
Ariel: We are a team of 3 that travels everywhere, but we are supported by other members of the company from different stores.
How many days have you been here? Is it your second day?
Ariel: So, today is our second day at UNH, but just a couple days ago we were at the University of Maine as well. We are here during normal hours — 9 to 5.
Can you tell me a little bit about the target audience? Who do you target mostly with L. L. Bean in general and this campaign specifically?
Ariel: This is part of our campaign “Be an outsider”, you can see on a lot of our merchandise. This is a part of our new branding. We’ve been a company since 1912, so we are looking for new ways to relate to our customers. It originally started as a hunting store and now it’s much more of an outdoor company.
What “Be an outsider” means is that everyone can be an outsider. It does not mean that you are an extreme hiker or an extreme skier. You can just be going outside in your backyard, having fun. So, what we are trying to sell is products that reflect that kind of outdoor lifestyle to anyone that might be interested. So, the age range is — everyone. From little kids to your grandparents.
The idea is that you can go out camping and it is easy and accessible.
Here you specifically target students, going to campuses. When did you start doing that?
Ariel: That might actually be a Ben-question [Ben — Ariel’s colleague].
Ben: So, the pop-up shop, our first day last year was on September, 11 at URI, Rhode Island and we visited 10 college campuses between September and October, and then the project was so successful on those campuses that we started a spring college tour. So, we’re doing 7 colleges, give or take, and then we will resume and probably do 25 or 30 colleges between September and December next year.
You were here yesterday. Do you take everything with you every evening and drive away and then return back in the morning?
Ariel: Somewhat. So, what we do it pack up everything we have out here in this trailer. The truck has a lot of our inventory as well. So, it all just gets packed up and we reopen for the next day.
Ben: So, we were here yesterday. We just lock things up for the night, leave security. If we have a multi-day event, we will come back the next day.
Do you mostly rely on sales that happen here or is it just a marketing campaign that drives more people into stores and online?
Ariel: I think that best answer is “yes”. We are trying to do both, starting with the Boot Mobil traveling around, they weren’t selling any merchandise, so the idea is just marketing. The idea of this [the pop-up store] is to make money and also do marketing at the same time.
Tell me about the Boot Mobil. Last year it was here, why didn’t it come this year?
Ariel: The Boot Mobil is really its own entity that does its own marketing. I don’t know that much about Boot Mobil schedule.
Ben: Boot Mobile is just to raise awareness and try to represent the brand and introduce the brand to new customers. The Boot Mobil has been visiting different event and colleges since 2012. We built our first Boot Mobil for our 100th anniversary and then the second one in 2013 when we realized the potential for it. Since then, we’ve put over 260’000 miles on both of those vehicles, which is pretty crazy.
Last year, when we started visiting colleges with the pop-up shop, the Boot Mobil would come with us because it was a recognizable face for students. But now we realize that we can continue to do marketing in places that are not so ‘L.L. Bean country” so to speak as we expand our stores farther west. And we can continue to drive sales and get the product in the hands of our customers with this project [pop-up store].
They will intercept at points. For example, June 7th is the next time that the Boot Mobil and the mobile selling unit will be back together again. They go to promote at games in Colorado, but for the most part this year they will be separate and will intercept at major events.
Yesterday was rainy. How did that affect you?
Ben: We saw an increased demand for rain jackets and bean boots. People realized they were not prepared for the weather.
Ariel: What’s really cool is that the items that help people prepare for the rain were sold best. People usually come out, when it’s not this kind of weather [not raining]. This allows us to press that you can still be outside while having a completely opposite, bad weather. So, we are prepared for any condition. Once we faced pouring rain, selling everything from inside the trailer.
Ben: We still worked outside because that’s what we try to advocate — the outdoor lifestyle, no matter what the conditions are.
I wanted to talk about sales a little bit. What is the best seller and what products are the most popular?
Ben: If I could give you the TOP-3 or 5, the original uninsulated 8-inch Bean Boots is definitely one of the most popular items that we sell. We also sell a ton of the sweater fleece that you see on that far rack right there. It’s a really great insulating layer and it’s really fashionable just 3 buttons. Our slippers are incredibly popular. And recently, we are selling a lot of this Anorak. It is a new adaptation of a product that we introduced 30 years ago. It looked pretty similar, but now we are introducing it in more colors. And that is incredibly popular.
Is it a windbreaker?
Ben: It’s a water-resistant shell, but what makes it unique is that it’s a half-zip pullover with the ‘kangaroo’ pocket. So, you’ve got the zipper pocket, and then for your hands, and behind. So, I travel a lot, I always carry my passport and my travel documents inside this pocket. And the price point is really great as well.
Ben: They retail for $59. But, everything that we sell from the pop-up shop is 20% off all the time. Stores can only do a discount when we corporately do a discount, but we run a permanent discount with this pop-up store. Bean boots, you can almost never get them 20% off, but we have it here in perpetuity. We feel like this is a very unique product and we want to make the customer feel like we’re offering something to them as well. It’s a fun job.
What’s the product that gets the least attention?
Ben: It’s definitely seasonal. Right now, we’re not selling a lot of T-shirts because it’s been cold and wet and windy. Our assortment team and the merchandisers do a really great job in curating the product that we have, target what the customer will demand seasonally. So, everything is selling okay.
The stow-away backpacks that you see in the corner, that’s a new addition to our assortment this year. We just took our notes from last Fall and realized that we have to have a backpack here.
So, my last question. Do you think people tend to buy things, looking forward (say, it’s the summer season coming), or more looking back at the recent weather?
Ben: That’s a good question. I noticed that in the fall, people are buying a lot more boots, a lot of jackets, and sweater fleece. And now, in the springtime, buying a lot lighter items. So, I think, seasonally, customers are looking for “what am I going to use next?”. Although, yesterday [was rainy] was more of a need-based purchase, and today is a forward-looking based purchase.
Thank you so much, I appreciate your time.
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