FREEPORT — L.L. Bean Inc. announced Friday that profits increased last year despite a slight slump in sales, enabling the outdoors outfitter to distribute $15 million in bonuses among employees.
The company said cost-cutting measures were responsible for improvements in the bottom line.
L.L. Bean last year withheld its traditional bonuses and offered early retirement incentives that contributed to the paring of its work force by 350 people.
“It was a precarious year,” spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett recalled. “It was the first time that anyone could remember that L.L. Bean had not paid a bonus.”
The privately held company does not release its earnings, but said bonuses paid during the past decade have accounted for roughly 30 percent of pre-tax profits.
Sales for 1996 totaled $1.04 billion, of which $908 million were domestic and international catalog sales. Retail operations, including Bean’s eight factory stores, made up the balance.
Bean, whose fiscal year begins and ends in March, said total sales for 1995 were $1.08 billion.
This year’s bonuses, pegged at 9 percent of a worker’s annual pay, will be distributed next week to 4,481 employees, President Leon Gorman said.
“Thanks to the outstanding efforts and the commitment of our people, we were able to control costs, improve profitability and implement business solutions that will position L.L. Bean for future growth,” Gorman said.
The company said it sent out 115 million catalogs in 1996, down from 130 million the year before. Other savings stemmed from the opening of a $38 million distribution center that enabled catalog orders to be handled more swiftly.
“It’s our bread and butter. It’s how we process our millions of company orders every year,” Hartnett said.