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Guaranteed to Last: L.L. Bean's Century of Outfitting America Hardcover – January 24, 2012

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Guaranteed to Last: L.L. Bean's Century of Outfitting America + L.L. Bean: The Making of an American Icon + L. L. Bean--The Man and His Company: The Complete Story
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Melcher Media (January 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595910700
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595910707
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 9.2 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jim Gorman is an award-winning book and magazine author. He's a contributing
editor to Backpacker and Popular Mechanics magazines, and his writing has
appeared in Men's Health, Runner's World, This Old House, Country Living,
National Geographic Adventure, Better Homes & Gardens, Endless Vacation,
Bicycling, Boy's Life, and elsewhere. He writes primarily about the
environment, outdoor exploration on foot and mountain bike, health &
wellness, home & garden, and energy conservation.

Jim's work has won a variety of awards, including a National Magazine Award
(2003) for "Wild In The Parks," National Geographic Adventure Magazine;
Travel Writer of the Year Award from the Caribbean Tourism Organization for
""Wild Beauties," Endless Vacation Magazine; and the Pluma de Plata (Silver
Quill) Award for Best Travel Writing on Mexico from the Mexico Tourism
Board, for "Zacatecas: Desert Rose," also in Endless Vacation Magazine. He
was also a National Magazine Award Finalist in 2005 for "Grail Trails,"
National Geographic Adventure Magazine.

Prior to his career as a freelance writer, Jim was an editor at Backpacker
Magazine, the website GORP.com, and the environmental journal World Watch.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

How did L.L. Bean thrive as scores of other retailers withered? Durable goods, a great reputation, and savvy retailing had a lot to do with it. But America was also changing in ways that played to L.L. Bean’s strengths. Paid vacation, a foreign concept during the Industrial Era, was becoming the norm (for those lucky enough to be working). By the end of the Thirties, half of American workers would earn paid time off, the luckiest enjoying two weeks or more. Whereas a Sunday afternoon spent picnicking in a local park was the best the average person could muster at the turn of the twentieth century, Americans in the late-1930s had sufficient time off to get out of town. And with a shiny Buick or Ford in the driveway, they now had the means.

Throughout the Victoria Era and into the early decades of the twentieth century, vacationing was a distinctly upper class pursuit. While the masses sweltered through the summer months in the inner city, high society retired to resorts and grand hotels at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Saratoga Springs, New York; Mackinaw Island, Michigan; and the like. Had they the money to stay in such luxury, it’s doubtful the new breed of footloose wage earners would have been welcome. Instead, America’s middle class took to the road. With practically no tourist infrastructure of inexpensive hotels or motels in existence, vacation destinations were limited. Out of necessity, leisure travelers took to tenting. To these free-wheelers, it didn’t much matter whether the ideal camping spot was in a national park or farmer’s field as long as it was far from the crowded, noisy city. Inexpensive and liberating, “auto camping” was the rage, and L.L. fine-tuned his catalog to meet the needs of the “tin can tourist.”

L.L.'s selection process for new items for his catalog was not based on market surveys or merchandising analyses. He simply went with his gut, and with is personal experience. If he used and approved of a product while on one of his hunting and fishing trips, it stood a good chance of getting in. Sometimes a product was developed in-house and then field-tested until the kinks worked out. Other times, as with the Hudson’s Bay Blanket, he simply offered another manufacturer’s product. The particulars behind L.L.’s decisions on product placement in the early years are usually unknown. He wasn’t much for record keeping and even less inclined toward noting his thoughts on paper. From our perspective, a hundred years after he went out on a limb to sell a new boot, L.L.’s marketing skills seem to have sprung up fully formed. For such an outgoing public figure, to this day he engenders some degree of mystery. Much of what we do know about him is reflected from oral histories and accounts kept by the people who worked or hunted with him. Justin Williams, a longtime Bean employee in the early days, provided such a mirror. His recollection of a particular duck hunting trip in the late-1930s gives us a glimpse of product development, L.L.-style:

“I had this old duck-call that I got around 1938 or so—one of the best ever made,” said Williams. “L.L. and Danny Snow were in one blind and I was in another with the dog. So I got this old duck-call out and used it. Within a few minutes there must have been 500 ducks flying around the blinds. I mean the sky was filled with ducks. L.L. was standing there in shock, and ’til the day he died, he never got over it. You can believe that the next fall he had duck-calls in his catalog … patterned after the one I used that day.”
Williams also witnessed what happened when one of L.L.’s field tests went awry. In this case, L.L. was trying out a fancy new fishing rod pressed on him by a salesman for possible inclusion in the catalog. The fact that several other outfitters had placed big orders for the rod didn’t impress L.L. “He took the rod on a fishing trip, hooked onto a big fish, the rod snapped in half and went overboard. That was the end of that,” said Williams.

“It wasn’t easy to sell to L.L.,” recalled Williams. “He had to see the truth of things for himself. If he put a product in the catalog, you can bet it was tested and was worth having, and no doubt about it at all. He started building a reputation for that right from the beginning.”

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anne Bam on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Guaranteed to Last not only taught me about the history of L.L.Bean [the company], but reading about L.L. Bean's life and beliefs inspired me to get back outside. Reading it, I suddenly wanted to see the beauty of Maine, to go hiking, to get out into nature and embrace it. (It also made me really believe in Bean's products; I ordered a pair of Bean boots & a Chamois shirt upon completion of the book, but that's another story). It's a tale of innovative thinking, commitment to quality [and to customers], and a love of the outdoors.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Hollis on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Bound in the classic L.L.Bean canvas complete with Bean's quality guaranteed label, "Guaranteed to Last" is certainly much more than just a book. It's an archive of L.L.Bean's New England roots, community, and its birth from a hunting boot.

"Guaranteed to Last" was released commemorating L.L.Bean's 100 years in business, and the timing couldn't have been more fitting. Reading of both the successes and obstacles L.L. Bean faced as well as their plan for the future is inspiring at a time when many doubt the viability of the American business model. The story of Leon Leonwood Bean is that of the quintessential entrepreneurial spirit that is mythologized in the American dream. Bean found a niche market (of which he was a part) identified a need, and invested himself in a solution.

Alongside L.L. Bean's story are timelines, newspaper clippings, letters from Bean's first fans, and countless photographs. These artifacts bring to life each moment in Bean's journey from a man who just needed a reliable pair of boots to the creator of New England's most cherished brand. They push the story along at comfortable pace by complimenting it with details about production process or the life of a New England outdoorsman.

The result is an inspiring look at authentic and lasting American entrepreneurship coupled with the engaging imagery and creativity of your favorite coffee table book.
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By Rocket on September 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Klein on February 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating look at LLBean and the first hundred years of the Company which he founded. A well written narrative by Jim Gorman is complimented by images of historical marketing materials, merchandise, photos and letters from the LLBean archives. A couple of my favorites are a letter from baseball hero Ted Williams offering to buy the company, and a thank you note from the war department thanking LL for his assistance designing boots for WWII soldiers.

I highly recommend this to fans of LLbean, business people interested in understanding how a company can evolve over time while staying true to its core values, and to anyone with an interest in American history. After a great read, don't put it on your bookshelf. It will start many conversations as a table top book.
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