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From LL Bean to Patagonia: Exploring the Evolution of Outdoor Apparel

L.L. Bean: A Look into Its History, Growth, and Competitors

For those who love the outdoors, L.L. Bean is undoubtedly a name that is synonymous with quality and style. Since the 1900s, this company has been producing some of the best waterproof boots, hats, jackets, and camping equipment that have remained popular for over a century.

In today’s article, we will explore the history of L.L. Bean, its growth and leadership, and alternatives that have followed in its footsteps. History and Founding of L.L. Bean

It all began with Leon Leonwood Bean, a hunter and fisherman from Freeport, Maine.

In 1911, he discovered a need for a reliable and comfortable pair of boots that could keep his feet dry during his outdoor adventures. After experimenting with different materials and designs, Bean came up with his own waterproof boots and decided to sell them through mail-order catalogs.

This simple idea turned out to be quite successful, and by 1934, Bean established his first brick-and-mortar store in Freeport, where customers could try on his boots and other outdoor gear. The store, which is still in operation today, has become a popular tourist destination, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Growth and Leadership of L.L. Bean

After the passing of Leon Leonwood Bean in 1967, the company was run by his grandson, Leon Gorman, who took the business to new heights. Under his leadership, the revenue of L.L. Bean grew from $4.7 million in 1967 to $1.6 billion in 2018.

In addition, Gorman introduced new products, such as the iconic L.L. Bean tote bag, and opened the company’s flagship store in Freeport, which spans over 220,000 square feet. After Gorman retired in 2001, Christopher McCormick took over as CEO.

He continued to expand the company’s product line and established an online presence that allowed customers to shop from anywhere in the world. Under McCormick’s leadership, the company continued to grow, reaching revenue of $1.8 billion in 2019.

Competitors of L.L. Bean

Columbia Sportswear

One of L.L. Beans closest competitors is

Columbia Sportswear, which was founded in 1938 by Paul Lamfrom. The companys revenue reached $2.79 billion in 2019, which is higher than that of L.L. Bean.

Columbia specializes in outdoor-related clothing, including jackets, pants, and hats. They are known for their use of advanced materials, such as Omni-Heat and Omni-Shield, which provide warmth and protection against water and wind.

Columbia maintains a focus on sustainability and ethical sourcing, ensuring that their products are produced with minimal impact on the environment.

The North Face

Another competitor for L.L. Bean is

The North Face, which was founded in 1968 by Douglas and Susie Tompkins. The company was created to serve the needs of the climbing community and has since expanded to include outdoor gear for a variety of activities.

The North Face has become known for its Base Camp Duffle and Mountain Jacket, and its popularity has grown in the outdoor industry. In 2020,

The North Face had revenue of $4.4 billion.

In conclusion, L.L. Bean has a rich history of producing quality outdoor gear that has remained a staple for over a century. The company has grown under the leadership of Leon Gorman and Christopher McCormick, and it has opened many new locations and expanded its product line.

While competitors, such as

Columbia Sportswear and

The North Face, have emerged, L.L. Bean remains popular for its dedication to quality and style. Competitors of L.L. Bean (Continued)


Patagonia is a company that has become known for its strong social consciousness and dedication to sustainability. The company was founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1973 and is headquartered in Ventura, California.

Patagonia has been recognized for its eco-friendly practices, including using recycled materials in its clothing and donating 1% of its sales to environmental organizations. In addition to its social consciousness,

Patagonia has gained significant brand power and has become a formidable competitor to L.L. Bean, especially in the outdoor apparel market.

Patagonia offers a wide range of clothing, including jackets, pants, and accessories, for a variety of outdoor activities.

Patagonia’s revenue reached $280 million in 2020.


Salomon is a French sports equipment manufacturing company that specializes in ski bindings, boots, and other related sports gear. The company was founded in 1947 by Franois

Salomon and its headquarters are located in Annecy, France.

In 1997,

Salomon became a subsidiary of Adidas, and in 2005 Adidas sold

Salomon to Amer Sports.

Salomon has gained popularity through its innovative designs that cater to the particular needs of outdoor enthusiasts. With a strong focus on skiing, the company produces some of the best ski boots and bindings in the world.

Salomon has also expanded into other areas of outdoor sports such as running and hiking. Today,

Salomon is recognized for its fashion zeitgeist and is a worthy competitor to L.L. Bean.

The company’s net sales reached 836.5 million in 2020.

Jack Wolfskin

Another strong competitor for L.L. Bean in Europe is

Jack Wolfskin. The German company, which was founded in 1981, produces outdoor apparel and accessories for men, women, and children.

Jack Wolfskin was acquired by Callaway Golf Company in 2019, and the company has continued to grow, with sales reaching 334.5 million in 2020.

Jack Wolfskin is known for its well-crafted designs that cater to the demands of outdoor enthusiasts in Europe and beyond. The company has more than 900 retail stores throughout Europe and Asia, making it easily accessible to those who want quality outdoor gear.

Jack Wolfskins products are designed to meet the varying needs of outdoor enthusiasts, from camping to hiking, and ski gear. The company’s success lies in its ability to deliver affordable prices without compromising on quality.

Canada Goose


Canada Goose is another brand that has emerged as a strong competitor to L.L. Bean. The company was founded in 1957 as Metro Sportswear, and it began producing down jackets in the 1970s.

In recent years,

Canada Goose has become particularly well-known for its contributions to extreme weather wear, creating some of the warmest coats in the world. As a result, the company has developed a reputation for quality, durability, and performance in harsh conditions.


Canada Goose has also struggled with copycat products that have impacted the company’s sales growth. The company has attempted to combat this by incorporating unique features and designs in its products.

Despite these challenges,

Canada Goose’s net income reached CAD$107.9 million in fiscal 2020, indicating that the company remains a significant player in the outdoor apparel market. In conclusion, L.L. Bean has a long and successful history of producing high-quality outdoor gear that’s been enjoyed for generations.

However, with strong and innovative emerging competitors like



Jack Wolfskin, and

Canada Goose, the company must continue to adapt to remain competitive in today’s market. Its future lies in its ability to meet consumer demand for products that cater to the evolving needs of outdoor enthusiasts, while remaining loyal to its legacy of quality, durability, and style.

Competition in the Outdoor Apparel Industry


Arc’teryx is a Canadian outdoor clothing and equipment company that has gained a reputation for its disruptive clothing designs. Founded in 1989, the company has become known for its use of advanced materials to create clothing that meets the specific needs of outdoor enthusiasts.

Arc’teryx became a subsidiary of the Chinese group Anta Sports in 2019, which has allowed the company to expand globally. The brand has retail stores in North America, Europe, and Asia, catering to a growing market of outdoor enthusiasts.

The company’s product line includes clothing, footwear, and equipment for activities such as mountaineering, skiing, and hiking. In 2020, Arcteryx recorded revenue of $423.8 million.


REI, a U.S.- based co-op, is a major competitor to L.L. Bean. They specialize in outdoor recreation gear and apparel, with a focus on sustainability and environmental stewardship.

The co-op was founded in 1938 by a group of mountaineers, and it now has over 170 retail locations across the United States.

REI offers a wide range of products from brands such as

The North Face and

Patagonia, as well as its own

REI Co-op clothing line. This line features sustainable materials and designs that are intended to cater to the needs of active outdoor enthusiasts.


REI positions itself as a more sustainable and accessible option than its competitors, and its co-op model has resonated with consumers of all ages. In 2020, the company recorded $2.75 billion in revenue.

Eddie Bauer

Eddie Bauer is a heritage American brand that has been around for over 100 years. The company was founded in 1920 by the famous outdoorsman of the same name, and he began by producing warm clothing for working-class individuals.


Eddie Bauer has been acquired by Simon Property Group, and the company has more than 300 retail locations in North America. The brand still focuses on producing high-quality outdoor apparel and equipment, but it has shifted towards a more modern and stylish look.

Eddie Bauer’s product line includes clothing, footwear, and accessories for a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking to skiing. While the company has faced difficulties in recent years, it is still a significant competitor to L.L. Bean.

In 2020,

Eddie Bauer recorded $725.6 million in revenue.

Helly Hansen

Helly Hansen is a Norwegian outdoor apparel company that was founded in 1877 by Sea Captain Helly Juell Hansen. The company’s product line includes clothing, footwear, and accessories for a range of outdoor activities, including skiing, sailing, and hiking.

In 2018,

Helly Hansen was acquired by the Canadian Tire Corp., which has allowed the company to expand its retail presence in North America. Today,

Helly Hansen has retail locations in over 40 countries, making it one of the largest outdoor apparel companies in the world.

Helly Hansen is known for its advanced materials and functionality, with a focus on clothes that withstand harsh conditions. The company’s product line features unique designs and features such as RECCO avalanche rescue reflectors and the brand’s H2Flow temperature regulating system.

In 2020, the company recorded revenue of $412.4 million.

In conclusion, while L.L. Bean has a rich history in outdoor apparel, it faces significant competition from a variety of brands.

These companies, including Arc’teryx, REI, Eddie Bauer, and Helly Hansen, are innovating with advanced materials, unique designs, and a focus on sustainability. As consumers’ demands continue to evolve, it will be essential for L.L. Bean and its competitors to remain ahead of the curve, meeting the needs of outdoor enthusiasts in today’s market.

The Evolving Landscape of Outdoor Apparel Competitors


Burton is a well-known company in the snowboarding industry, specializing in snowboard equipment and apparel. The company was founded in 1977 by Jake Burton, who played a crucial role in popularizing snowboarding as a sport.

Burton’s commitment to innovation and craftsmanship has made it a respected brand among snowboarders. The company produces a wide range of products, including snowboards, bindings, boots, and apparel.

Burton’s clothing line includes jackets, pants, base layers, and accessories designed for harsh weather conditions. In addition to its commitment to high-quality gear, Burton has also invested in creating flagship stores to enhance the retail experience for its customers.

These stores showcase Burton’s products and provide a space for snowboarders to connect and immerse themselves in the brand’s culture.


Marmot is a company that has its roots in the early days of outdoor apparel innovation. Founded by Eric Reynolds and Dave Huntley in 1974,

Marmot originated from a chance encounter on a university glacier in Alaska.

The founders were inspired to create high-quality clothing that would withstand extreme weather conditions. Over the years,

Marmot has expanded its product line to include a wide range of outdoor apparel and equipment, such as jackets, pants, sleeping bags, and tents.

The company’s commitment to technical innovation and functional design has made it a trusted brand among outdoor enthusiasts. In 2004,

Marmot was acquired by Newell Brands, a multinational consumer goods company.

This acquisition has allowed

Marmot to reach a broader customer base and expand its retail presence globally. Today,

Marmot has retail stores across the United States and can be found in outdoor specialty stores around the world.

Marmot’s close relationship with UC Santa Cruz’s environmental studies department has also fostered a commitment to sustainability. The company actively seeks ways to reduce its environmental impact and promotes responsible manufacturing practices.

As L.L. Bean competes with these brands, it is crucial for them to continue to innovate and meet the needs of the modern outdoor enthusiast. The market is evolving, and customer demands are changing.

Consumers now seek not only high-quality and reliable products but also brands that align with their values, such as sustainability and social responsibility. To thrive in this competitive landscape, L.L. Bean will need to adapt its product offerings, explore new technologies, and stay connected with the demands of its target audience.

By leveraging its rich history and reputation for quality, L.L. Bean can continue to resonate with customers who value authenticity and reliability in their outdoor gear. In conclusion, the outdoor apparel industry is filled with strong competitors, each with its own unique offerings and brand identity.

Companies like Burton and

Marmot have gained popularity among snowboarders and outdoor enthusiasts due to their commitment to innovation and functional design. As L.L. Bean navigates this landscape, it will need to continue focusing on its strengths while staying attuned to the evolving demands of its customer base.

By doing so, L.L. Bean can remain a formidable player in the outdoor apparel market for years to come. In conclusion, the outdoor apparel industry is filled with a diverse range of competitors, each offering unique products and carving their own niche in the market.

From well-established brands like

Patagonia and

The North Face to emerging players like

Columbia Sportswear and Arc’teryx, the competition is fierce. L.L. Bean, with its rich history and commitment to quality, has stood the test of time but must continue to adapt and innovate to remain competitive.

The key takeaway is that success in this industry lies in meeting the evolving needs of outdoor enthusiasts while staying true to the company’s values and brand identity. As consumers prioritize sustainability and social consciousness, embracing these principles will be crucial.

By doing so, L.L. Bean and its competitors can continue to thrive in a market that values quality, performance, and environmental responsibility.

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