Featured Photo: L.L. Bean

The Maine-based company L.L. Bean, known for its longstanding, lifetime return policy, has recently made changes and is now limiting most returns to one-year.

The shoe and clothing company — founded by hunter and fisherman Leon Leonwood Bean — has lost $250 million over the past five years, according to the Washington Post, due to returns on products the company classifies as “destroy quality.”

The Post reported:

The outdoor specialty retailer said returns of items that have been destroyed or rendered useless, including some purchased at thrift stores or retrieved from trash bins, have doubled in the past five years, surpassing the annual revenue from the company’s famous boot.

“The numbers are staggering,” CEO Steve Smith told The Associated Press. “It’s not sustainable from a business perspective. It’s not reasonable. And it’s not fair to our customers.”

Today, L.L. Bean’s return policy on its website reads this way:

If you are not 100% satisfied with one of our products, you may return it within one year of purchase for a refund. After one year, we will consider any items for return that are defective due to materials or craftsmanship.

We require proof of purchase to honor a refund or exchange. If you provide us your information when you check out, we will typically have a record of your purchase. Otherwise, we require a physical receipt.

It was L.L. Bean’s founder who started the lifetime return policy when, after opening his one-room shop in 1912, customers ended up returning most of the “Bean boots” he’d made. Of the first 100 sold, 90 were returned due to the rubber bottoms separating from the leather uppers. But Bean kept his word and refunded every one, took out another loan and corrected the problem.

In recent years, L.L. Bean has experienced a renewed interest in its boot line. In 2015, The Atlantic profiled the company’s trend-setting boots in their feature, “Why L.L. Bean’s Boots Keep Selling Out.

“The demand for Bean Boots has cycled up and down during the hundred years we’ve [been] making it. We don’t go out of our way to find those trends,” Eric Smith, a public relations representative for L.L. Bean, told The Atlantic in an interview for the feature. “The trends keep coming back to us. Then people will go away for awhile and they keep coming back. We’re just happy to be in one of those cycles, when it’s the largest of those cycles we’ve seen.”

At the time the article was published, the Bean Boot was in its fourth consecutive year of selling out.

More recently, CBS News’ “Money Watch” reported that the outdoor company had taken measures to avoid shortages of its popular duck boot and hoped to hit the 1 million mark in sells for 2018.

Annual sales have grown from fewer than 100,000 pairs a decade ago to this year’s projection of 750,000 pairs,” CBS News reported.

For more information on L.L. Beans change to its return policy, go here. For more information on L.L. Bean’s history as an iconic outdoor brand, go here.