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Executives at L.L. Bean uncovered an ironic research finding: The outdoor clothing catalog's best source for new customers was the Internet.

"The customer base is a perfect fit for our target," says Christoper McCormick, senior VP-advertising and direct marketing, and the spearhead behind the September 1995 launch of L.L. Bean's Web site (

"The Internet attracts younger and active males. Users like the outdoors-kayaking, fishing-and that is a great market for us," he adds.

L.L. Bean is now building critical mass on the Web site, developed with Strategic Interactive Group. The Web site gives the customer a better presentation of L.L. Bean's product line, while communicating Bean's strong brand image by explaining the company's history and philosophy.

The site also acts as a way to circumvent rising costs for paper and postage, says Mr. McCormick, 40. In addition, by eschewing paper, the online site also coincides with L.L. Bean's environmental concerns.

New-media sales are expected to grow to 5% of total company sales within three years, he says (sales totaled more than $1 billion in 1995). The marketer has scrapped its CD-ROM catalog.

In the future, visitors to the site can look forward to downloadable video and audio. Also, starting in September, the marketer will accept orders placed online, through IBM Corp.'s Net.Commerce, a secure-transaction methodology. Bean is the first retailer to sign on.

"It is a strategic priority for the company; we are investing heavily in it. There will be a gradual move more toward the new media channel and away from the printed catalog," he says.

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