What’s Behind the L.L. Bean Boot Shortage?

Growing up in Massachusetts, I have vivid memories of sledding, building forts in snow banks and helping my dad shovel the driveway after big winter storms. An image that always comes to mind is of my father lacing up his L.L. Bean Duck Boots and preparing to brave whatever met us on the other side of our front door. L.L. Bean apparel can be found in many New Englanders’ wardrobes, and the distinctive Bean Boot, or “Duck Boot” is a staple of their winter attire. In fact, if you visit L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport, Maine, you will be welcomed by a 20 ft tall Bean Boot, and if you’re lucky, you might even spot the Bootmobile!
With holiday shopping well under way, customers look to L.L. Bean for everything from camping gear to flannel shirts to tuck under the Christmas tree. However, if you’re looking to get in on the Bean Boot craze, you may have to wait a bit. A backlog of up to 100,000 pairs of boots has new orders set to be delivered in February of 2015.
So what has created this unusually high demand? Just as my dad and I would dig through the wall of snow, Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight Platform can help dig through the “snow bank” of social data. Let’s get to the bottom of this shortage that has L.L. Bean making headlines.

What originated as essential footwear sold primarily to hunters in Maine, is now a must-have item for teens and fashionistas alike. When looking at the emerging topics in the graphic below, you can see that “Style Fashion Swag” emerges in September and October far before any snowfall, setting the stage for the skyrocketing Bean Boot conversation. As Black Friday and holiday shopping commenced, talk of the shortage emerged.
llbean boots
Top hashtags associated with L.L. Bean validate the popularity of the boots and their fashion value. By looking at the social buzz alone, anticipation of the heightened demand could have been extrapolated.
llbean boots hashtags
Aside from abnormal off-season buzz, Bean Boots are also being mentioned in interesting geographical locations aside from the Northeast. Places that rarely see snow, like Texas, California, Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia indicate higher social conversation volume. When drilling into states like North Carolina, posts highlight the popularity of the boots on college campuses like UNC. 
llbean map
Looking at the Topic Wheel, it is evident that Bean Boots are popular on Christmas wish lists. Aside from the overall love for the L.L. Bean brand, you can also see that many people are resorting to E-Bay to satisfy their Bean Boot holiday needs after finding out about the backlog on the boots.
Bean Boot Wheel
Not only does Crimson Hexagon help identify key metrics and trends in the social conversation, Affinities provides a detailed look into what segments are most associated with the brand and what is important within the unique circles of people. It is not a surprise that the core interest lies in the New England and Outdoor segments however fashion is emerging as a major group that is talking about and interested in L.L. Bean.
Social data has the potential to act as a great supplement to predictive analysis. L.L. Bean has superior quality products and customer service and they are working very hard to meet the demand for their Bean Boots. Could they have done more to curb this shortage? How many boot purchases have been lost due to the frustration of back orders? Crimson Hexagon not only identifies existing trends and nuances in the social conversation but it can also help identify new markets and opportunity as they emerge. Bean Boots will always be a New England icon, but we shall see if the versatile boot becomes a mainstay on a wider stage.
For additional insights into purchase behavior in retail, take a look at our UK industry report snapshot.

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