L.L. Bean Is Fending Off Trump-Related Boycott
Update, Thursday, January 12: Donald Trump this morning took to Twitter to heap praise on Linda Bean, the Trump donor at the center of the boycott controversy and lend his support to the Maine outerwear company.
Earlier: It’s tricky business being an iconic New England shoe brand these days.
First it was the brouhaha over New Balance, and a sneaker executive’s supportive statements about president-elect Donald Trump, and now it’s L.L. Bean, the Maine-based home of the indestructible—and now trendy—Bean Boot.
Trump opponents are waging a campaign to boycott L.L. Bean after it came to light that a member of the family that runs the business, Linda Bean, donated a healthy sum of $60,000 to a Trump-supporting super PAC. A group called Grab Your Wallet, which maintains a list of companies to avoid due to ties to Trump, called for a boycott, and now leadership at the company is taking those threats seriously, urging people not to let politics influence their opinions of a 100-year-old brand.
L.L. Bean board chairman Shawn Gorman sounded off about the proposed boycott on Facebook, saying he was “deeply troubled” by the implication that the outerwear brand has political leanings.
“We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board of directors,” he wrote. “Like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum, just as our employees and customers do. And as every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L.L. built.”
L.L. Bean has good reason to try to quell this campaign, as they don’t have to look far to see just how bad a groundswell of opposition can be for a company and its footwear. In the days after the election, remember, opponents of Donald Trump freaked out when they learned that Matt LeBretton, New Balance’s vice president of public affairs, had said in an interview that “things are going to move in the right direction” on trade policy with new leadership in the White House. Enraged protesters posted videos of themselves setting their New Balance sneakers on fire (it didn’t help matters that an opportunistic neo-Nazi website later seized the opportunity to declare New Balance the “official shoes of white people,” a title New Balance wholeheartedly rejected).
Meanwhile, Grab Your Wallet says it is prepared to take L.L. Bean off its boycott list if the company removes Linda Bean from its board.
“As fans of L.L. Bean’s products, everybody is hoping that the company is really seriously evaluating whether or not Linda Bean’s presence and contributions to the company are worth the damage she continues to inflict on L.L. Bean’s brand and reputation,” co-founder Shannon Coulter tells Maine Public, adding, “It’s really not about politics. It’s about common decency and respect.”
Grab Your Wallet includes L.L. Bean on its list of companies to consider boycotting, a designation it shares with Carnival cruises, Trident, Welch’s, and Yuengling. Also on the organization’s more serious list of companies to definitely boycott: Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, WalMart, Amazon, and the Burlington Coat Factory.