L.L. Bean Competitors: Which Is The Biggest Outdoor Brand?

L.L. Bean is a manufacturer and distributor of outdoor-related clothing, footwear, accessories, and even home goods.

The company, which is headquartered in Freeport, Maine, was founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean.  

Its founder, a passionate hunter and fisher, had started the company after repeatedly getting his feet wet during his trips. Consequently, L.L. Bean’s first product were waterproof boots that the firm sold to other hunters in the area.

He slowly grew the firm by opening more stores in the area and launching other products such as a duffle bag. In the early 1950s, after crossing $2 million in annual sales, L.L. Bean opened its flagship store in Freeport, which is open 24 hours a day and throughout the year.

After Leon Bean died in 1967 (at the tender age of 94), he passed the responsibility of running the business onto his grandson Leon Gorman. Under his leadership, the brand grew from its home state of Maine all across the world, reaching over $230 million in annual sales by the mid-1980s.

In 2001, Goran handed the keys to Christopher McCormick who became the first non-family member to lead the firm as CEO. Today, L.L. Bean ships its 140,000 products to over 200 countries across the globe.

The company now operates 54 physical stores in the United States and another 25 in Japan where its products are particularly popular (L.L. bean opened its first international retail store in Tokyo in 1992).

Over 5,000 people are now employed by L.L. Bean on a full-time basis. The company, despite still being family-owned, has generated $1.8 billion in annual revenue for the fiscal year 2021. Revenue is equally split between active apparel, footwear, outerwear, and winter sports products.

The methodology with which competitors of L.L. Bean are ranked is based on a variety of data points. We mostly take public information into account, namely annual revenue numbers, stores in operation, employee counts, and anything else that might seem relevant.

This analysis should not be seen as a purchase recommendation. It is merely a summary of the competition that L.L. Bean faces as of today.

In order to ensure comparability, we only look at competitors that are primarily known for producing outdoor apparel targeted at both normal as well as affluent consumers.

As a result, brands such as Adidas or Nike, which also produce comparable clothing lines, are not being taken into account. Additionally, single-product brands such as Osprey (bags) or Forsake (hiking boots) are disregarded as well.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top 12 competitors of L.L. Bean.

1. Columbia Sportswear

Headquarters: Portland, Oregon, United States

Founder(s): Paul Lamfrom

Year Founded: 1938

Columbia Sportswear is the biggest outdoor brand when it comes to revenue numbers. However, it didn’t always look that way.

The firm, for the longest time, only produced hats. In 1960, it rebranded from Columbia Hat Company to Columbia Sportswear Company. Continuous issues with suppliers essentially forced Columbia to begin manufacturing its own products.

Alongside the rebrand, the firm also began to offer an increasing array of outdoor-related clothing. Today they sell over 5,000 different styles to customers around the world.

Its continuous growth allowed Columbia Sportswear to go public in 1998, raising around $100 million in the process. It is now valued at close to $6 billion.

For the fiscal year 2021, Columbia Sportswear generated $3.1 billion in revenue, up 25 percent from the year prior. Profits rose by a whopping 445 percent to $450.5 million. Its profitability has allowed the company to employ over 10,000 people.

It has to be noted, though, that the above-mentioned revenue and profit numbers also entail Columbia’s other brands it owns such as Sorel, prAna, and Mountain Hardwear.

Source: Crunchbase, Columbia Sportswear, LinkedIn

2. The North Face

Headquarters: Alameda, California, United States

Founder(s): Douglas Tompkins, Susie Tompkins Buell

Year Founded: 1968

The North Face, which was started by husband-and-wife duo Douglas and Susie Tompkins (who later also co-founded fashion brand Esprit), has been behind some of the most iconic designs in the outdoor industry.

Most notably, its Base Camp Duffle, as well as Mountain Jacket, are often used by professional mountaineers to climb the world’s most challenging mountains. This is also where The North Face got its name from as the northern side of a mountain is often the toughest one to climb, which the founders wanted to pay tribute to.

The original founders sold the company in 1970 to businessman Kenneth Klopp. In 2000, VF Corporation paid $25.4 million to purchase The North Face, which it owns and runs to this date (alongside brands like Dickies, Eastpak, Supreme, Timberland, and Vans).

For the fiscal year 2021, The North Face generated $2.5 billion in revenue ($9.2 billion for VF in total). It operates more than 200 stores across the world and employs close to 3,500 people.

One random (and tragic) side note: Douglas Tompkins unfortunately (and somewhat ironically) died in 2015 during a kayaking trip in Patagonia, Chile – a region that certainly served as an inspiration for the next company on this list.

Source: LinkedIn, VF Corporation

3. Patagonia

Headquarters: Ventura, California, United States

Founder(s): Yvon Chouinard

Year Founded: 1974

Patagonia, when it comes to sheer brand awareness and strength, is undoubtedly one of the biggest competitors to L.L. Bean – and probably one of the most beloved companies around the globe.

What sets Patagonia apart from other brands in the space is its social consciousness. For instance, the firm donates one percent of its annual profits to non-profit environmental groups. It has handed out over $140 million in cash and in-kind donations to dozens of organizations.

Patagonia, furthermore, vehemently rejects fast fashion. As a result, it not only produces long-lasting products but even offers a repair and reuse program with which customers can trade in the things they previously bought.

Therefore, it certainly does not sell at the scale that brands like Columbia Sportswear, L.L. Bean, or The North Face do. On the other end, its commitment to quality and sustainability allowed it to charge more for its products, which is a clear sign of brand power.

Patagonia remains in private ownership to this date. Previous reports, which were released before the coronavirus pandemic, have pegged its annual revenue at around $1 billion. Additionally, Patagonia employs over 2,500 people.

Source: Forbes, LinkedIn

4. Salomon

Headquarters: Épagny-Metz-Tessy, France

Founder(s): Georges Salomon

Year Founded: 1947

Salomon, who started by selling ski bindings, became a leading brand in the field. Its revolutionary technology, which Salomon advertised as ‘Your guardian angel’, heavily minimized the impact jammed skis would have on someone’s legs. They sold over one million of these bindings each year during the mid-1970s.

Clothing-wise, Salomon started out making alpine boots but has since expanded into other types. Their first clothing line was launched in 2001 and indicated their shift towards sporting apparel overall.

Salomon was purchased by Adidas in 1997, then sold to Amer Sports, which also owns Arc’teryx (mentioned later), Atomic, Wilson, and other brands, for €485 million in 2005. Adidas abandoned its ski equipment and clothing lines when it sold Salomon.

The company counts about 3,000 employees and 190 retail stores in its arsenal. Unfortunately, Amer Sports was delisted in late 2018 after being sold to Anta Sports, which means it does not file income reports anymore.

Therefore, revenue and profit numbers for Salomon are currently not available. However, in 2018, the last year when Amer Sports was still filing income reports, Salomon had generated $500 million in annual revenue.

Regardless, Salomon has accomplished what many brands only can hope for: it became part of the fashion zeitgeist. In recent times, celebrities like Rihanna and Kanye West have been spotted wearing the brand.

Source: Amer Sports, LinkedIn

5. Jack Wolfskin

Headquarters: Idstein, Hessen, Germany

Founder(s): Ulrich Dausien

Year Founded: 1981

Jack Wolfskin is another leading outdoor brand that has its roots in Europe, yet continues to be fairly popular in North America as well.

For the first 12 years of its life, Jack Wolfskin had been a supplier of other specialist stores. Previously, founder Dausien, who had his first entrepreneurial experience selling Palestinian keffiyeh scarves on the streets of Frankfurt, had opened one of the first outdoor shops in Germany called SINE.

As a result, Jack Wolfskin’s products were first only available in selected SINE stores. By 1993, the brand had grown to the point that allowed Jack Wolfskin to open its first namesake store.

Over the coming years, Jack Wolfskin changed hands multiple times (its founder departed from the business in 1994). Most recently, Callaway Golf Company acquired Jack Wolfskin for €418 million in November 2018.

For the fiscal year 2021, Callaway, which also has its own namesake brand focused on golf and owns other brands like Odyssey, generated around $3.1 billion in revenue. $817 million of the $3.1 billion can be attributed to the ‘Apparel, Gear and Other’ segment, which includes Jack Wolfskin, TravisMathew, and portions of the Callaway brand.

Moreover, Jack Wolfskin employs 1,400+ people who are mostly stationed across the European region where its brand is the strongest. It, furthermore, operates close to 500 retail stores.

Source: Callaway Golf Company, Jack Wolfskin

6. Canada Goose

Headquarters: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Founder(s): Sam Tick

Year Founded: 1957

Canada Goose, which began life as Metro Sportswear, was initially a working-class brand targeted at laborers in Canada. It sold clothes in bulk to police departments, research teams, and everyone else who spent any significant time in cold environments.

In 1985, Tick’s son-in-law, David Reiss, who became the firm’s CEO (he had previously acquired a majority stake) in the late 1970s, launched an apparel line dubbed Snow Goose.

Simultaneously, it partnered with Antarctica’s McMurdo Station to develop jackets tailored to sustain extreme weather conditions. The name Canada Goose came into existence after the firm expanded into Europe in the early 1990s. It wasn’t able to use the Snow Goose name due to a trademark dispute.

Ever since it has doubled down on its image. For example, the material for its cost is almost exclusively sourced from Canada. David Reiss’s son, Dani, took over in 2001 and managed to grow the business by over 3,500 percent from 2003 to 2013.

Being a world-renowned brand also comes with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest problems Canada Goose faces is the dozens of copycat products that are now being sold on marketplaces across the globe.

In 2013, Bain Capital acquired a majority stake in the company, which went public in March 2017, raising $250 million in the process.

For the fiscal year 2021, Canada Goose generated $903.7 million in revenue, slightly down from the $958.1 million it recorded the year prior. It is currently valued at around $2.5 billion. Canada Goose only operates 20 retail stores but employs over 1,500 people.

Source: Canada Goose, Yahoo Finance

7. Arc’teryx

Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Founder(s): Dave Lane, Jeremy Guard

Year Founded: 1989

Another Amer Sports-owned property is Arc’teryx, which got its name from the Archaeopteryx lithographica, the first reptile to develop feathers for flight (i.e., the first bird). However, for the first two years of existence, it was known under the name Rock Solid.

After the founders sold 50 percent of the company to two silent partners, then-CEO Jeremy Guard decided to rename it in 1991. The new name, Arc’teryx, was meant to highlight the firm’s ambitions to create disruptive and “evolutionary” clothing.

Arc’teryx began by selling various climbing gear. In 1996, the brand launched its first set of Gore-Tex products after obtaining the necessary license from the technology’s creators. Not long after, it was sold to Salomon (2001).

Armer Sports purchased Salomon, as previously stated, in 2005 and is now owned by the Chinese group Anta Sports. Years later, in 2016, Arc’teryx opened the Arc’One, a 243,000 square foot manufacturing plant in North Vancouver, making it one of the world’s only outdoor brands to operate a local production facility.

Arc’teryx currently operates 75 stores across the world and employs over 1,500 people. Unfortunately, owner Anta Sports does not disclose the brand’s revenue figures.

Source: LinkedIn, WWD

8. REI

Headquarters: Kent, Washington, United States

Founder(s): Lloyd Anderson, Mary Anderson

Year Founded: 1938

REI, short for Recreational Equipment, Inc., is a co-op that was started after the Andersons imported an Akadem Pickel ice ax from Austria to partake in The Mountaineers Basic Climbing Course.

That ax would cost $20, a hefty sum back in the day. They, therefore, decided to set up a co-operative to aid other outdoor enthusiasts to purchase quality equipment. The group would be able to garner discounts by purchasing in bulk.

The Andersons managed to recruit 21 of their friends who each paid $1 for a lifetime membership. That co-op has now grown to 20 million lifetime members, about 15,000 employees, and 168 retail locations which are mostly based in the United States.

Apart from distributing other brands, such as The North Face or Patagonia, REI has also developed its own clothing line called REI Co-op. Owning one, if not the largest online shop for outdoors, consequently allows REI to push its own products to millions of monthly visitors. However, the firm does currently not disclose how much revenue it specifically derives from its clothing line.

Source: REI

9. Eddie Bauer

Headquarters: Bellevue, Washington, United States

Founder(s): Eddie Bauer

Year Founded: 1920

Another retailer turned outdoor apparel manufacturer is Eddie Bauer which began producing clothing in the mid-1930s. Bauer, before starting his company at the tender age of 20, was working in an outdoor retail store in Seattle for the previous six years.

However, it needed a near-death experience for Bauer to produce clothing himself. After a fishing trip, he almost died from hypothermia, which prompted him to create the first visibly quilted down insulated jacket available to U.S. customers (called The Skyliner).

Over the coming years, the firm continued to ingrain itself into the outdoor culture. For example, it outfitted dozens of mountain expeditions. By the 1980s, Eddie Bauer had grown into one of the nation’s biggest apparel manufacturers. The company was also one of the first to move into catalog sales.

Eddie Bauer, after various ownership changes (and even going through bankruptcy in 2003), was acquired in May 2021 by Simon Property Group for an undisclosed sum. The company, furthermore, employs close to 3,000 people and operates around 370 retail locations.

Unfortunately, neither Simon Property Group nor Eddie Bauer itself currently disclose revenue or profit figures for the company.

Source: Eddie Bauer, LinkedIn

10. Helly Hansen

Headquarters: Oslo, Norway

Founder(s): Helly Juell Hansen

Year Founded: 1877

Sea Captain Helly Juell Hansen, together with his wife Maren Margrethe, started producing clothes that would enable them to withstand the harshness of the Norwegian sea. The first items they offered for sale were oilskin jackets, trousers, and tarpaulins.

Over the coming decades, Helly Hansen created various iconic pieces for events such as the 1952 Olympic games. They also were willing to constantly experiment with new materials. In 1961, for example, it introduced Fiberpile, the world’s first fleece jacket.

By the mid-2000s, Helly Hansen introduced its first-ever line of shoes. Today, it offers thousands of items, ranging from jackets all the way to backpacks.

Helly Hansen generates $400 million in revenue per year and employs well over 1,000 people across the globe. The company’s ownership changed multiple times throughout its existence. Most recently, in May 2018, it was acquired by Canadian Tire Corp. for CA$985 million.

Source: Helly Hansen, LinkedIn

11. Burton

Headquarters: Burlington, Vermont, United States

Founder(s): Jake Burton Carpenter

Year Founded: 1977

Burton began as a way for founder Jake Burton to live the outdoor lifestyle he loved. He ended up working as an investment banker in New York City, a lifestyle he grew tired of not long after.  He, therefore, decided to move to Vermont to pursue his passion for alpine sports.

He began experimenting in his garage where he would create the first models, which were largely inspired by surfboards. Burton, furthermore, remained in the area and convinced various municipalities to open up their lift to snowboard riders, which wasn’t allowed before.

Over the coming years, he grew the brand from its home state of Vermont to all around the world. In fact, it’s now the leading snowboard manufacturer in the world. Burton has used that clout to expand into a multitude of other categories such as outdoor clothing, shoes, and so forth.

The firm is projected to generate over $400 million in annual revenue. It, even though founder Burton died in 2019, remains in family ownership. Burton now employs over 1,000 people and operates around 70 flagship stores. It also sells its products via its own as well as third-party eCommerce stores.

Source: Forbes, LinkedIn

12. Marmot

Headquarters: Rohnert Park, California, United States

Founder(s): David Huntley, Eric Reynolds, Lock Miller

Year Founded: 1971

Marmot was founded by students from the University of California, Santa Cruz who had previously run a club for mountaineering enthusiasts. The founders created the business to solve their own frustrations, namely that outdoor clothing, at the time, wasn’t made for more serious mountaineers.

They began by making parkas and sleeping bags in their dorm rooms. More precisely, those clothes were made to withstand the most extreme weather conditions, which quickly earned them a loyal following among mountaineers. Not long after, the team introduced other clothing items to its ever-growing collection.

Marmot also became the first outdoor brand to use Gore-Tex in 1976, which is now seen as one of the firm’s key stepping stones.

The firm, throughout its existence, went through various ownership changes. As of recently, Marmot became part of Newell Brands in 2016, which acquired its parent company Jarden Corporation for $16 billion in 2016.

Newell generated $10.6 billion in revenue for the fiscal year 2021 but did not disclose how much of that could be attributed to Marmot. The company currently employs around 200 people and operates three retail stores.

Source: LinkedIn, Newell Brands

Hi folks, Viktor checking in! Years of experience in various tech-related roles have led me to start this blog, which I hope provides you with as much enjoyment to read as I have writing the content.