By Richard Campbell
As big box retailers fade into irrelevance blaming Amazon for their demise, LL Bean’s opening in the Boston Seaport this past week showed everyone that old fashioned customer service, genuine product, and just being friendly drives customer loyalty. I’ve been to plenty of store openings over the years, and would have to go way back to recall any store opening with such smart style, well trained staff, and genuine great vibes. Rarely does this writer to wait outside a store in a cow line, but I showed up and hour early to be a gift card recipient and mind waiting at all because the LL Bean staff kept coming by lavishing us with freebies (water, water bottles, hats, pens). LL Bean greeters introduced themselves and their extended staff- mainly Millie the company dog- and selfies ensued. By the time certain celebrants screamed though the door with delight over getting $500-dollar gift cards, (the first hundred got gift cards), the event was rolling.
How long has it been since anyone in a retail store really paid attention to the details? Sure, if you are shopping at Saks or Neiman Marcus, that will happen, but for regular department stores: not hardly. LL Bean managers Susie Gresco and Chris Wheeler showed grace under pressure attending to every patron and celebrated guests, putting on a clinic of how to open. The staff must have spent hours steaming clothes and putting up displays, for the product visually jumped off the racks with crisp colors, great textures and LL Bean quality. This is a company that also understands the value of community support. As they are launching their Outdoor Discovery School operations to provide outdoor training for youth in the Seaport this spring, Discovery School Operations Manager, Jenn Garlepy was there to promote this aspect of their arrival in Boston.
The chief honchos at LL Bean also brought out the big guns with a three- hour meet and greet Red Sox legends, Jim Rice, Luis Tiant, and Dennis Eckersley. Along with signing free baseballs these guys had some great jokes, and kept the crowds moving that were strung around the store. Some of the double and triple dippers got wall sized art hats, cards, and framed jerseys signed as well. There was something very special about the fans who remembered specific career highlights, as well as avid kid baseball fans- and almost all got selfies, shot by LL Bean staff. The Red Sox World Series trophies were on display for Wally and the LL Bean Bear to pose with folks, and various dog owners sported their pooches around the store- of course with Millie’s approval.
The foundation of the LL Bean brand, their remarkable, often imitated, LL Bean boot was celebrated with their boot truck that had clocked thousands of miles across the country before pulling into Boston. As a company that hasn’t forgotten its roots, that is moving into a pretty high rent district in Boston, they demonstrated the value of doing business in person, even while offering an online store. Leon Leonwood Bean, the pioneer who started it all in 1911, would have been suitably proud to see this glistening store in Seaport Square. Conveniently located on the Silver Line Courthouse Square stop, the store hours and details are posted here: https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/516855.