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President-elect Donald J. Trump this morning went on Twitter and wrote, "Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L.Bean for your great support and courage. People will support you even more now. Buy L.L.Bean."

It may have been the last thing that leadership at LL Bean wanted.

The story began during campaign season, when Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company's founder, decided to bankroll a political action committee supporting Trump's candidacy. After the election, Linda Bean's efforts became more widely known, and some members of the anti-Trump movement called for a boycott of the Maine-based iconic outdoor clothing and gear company.

Which was something else that leadership at LL Bean didn't want.

The company's chairman, Shawn Gorman - himself a great-grandson of the company's founder - took to Facebook to write, “We are deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L. Bean as a supporter of any political agenda."

The Boston Globe reports that the company has gone to great pains to point out that there are many members of the Bean family, and that they hold opinions that cut across the political spectrum, saying that "some have attempted to attribute the personal political activities of one member of a five-generation ownership family to our entire company. That is both illogical and unfair."

These events put LL Bean in good company - with New Balance, PepsiCo, Kellogg's and GrubHub - with other customer-facing businesses that have gotten into hot water during recent weeks because of statements that created perceptions of political positions that were seen by some as untenable or inappropriate.
KC's View:
Well, here we go again ... except in this case, it at least can't hurt LL Bean's stock price because the company is privately held.

The thing is, Trump got it wrong. Or at least, selectively right. The company took no position on his candidacy or positions. One person did, albeit a person with a strong familial connection to the company ... though she's one of more than 50 family members with some ownership in the company.

But even while getting it only selectively right, Trump has demonstrated a willingness and ability to profoundly and unfairly affect the operations and image of a retail company. I think it is fair to say that this is something that retailers - and frankly, every business - will have to think about going forward. Trump said, "Buy L.L. Bean," but what if he had said, "Don't buy L.L. Bean"? And had done so while only getting things selectively right?

(What is he going to say if he finds out that LL Bean imports some of its products from outside the US? I suspect that like a lot of companies that do so, LL Bean could be a little concerned about discussions of import tariffs that could raise the cost and price of such items.)

This is not a partisan statement on my part. It is an objective observation about the highly partisan climate in which we're currently living.

To be clear ... I would accuse the people threatening a boycott against LL Bean of being just as wrong as Trump in being only selectively accurate.

I don't want to ignite a political debate here. That's not my goal. However you voted, whatever you think or feel about the country's direction, the stark partisanship that afflicts our country right now is creating a minefield that could affect everyone.

By the way, I've met Linda Bean. Had drinks with her one night in the restaurant she owns in Freeport, Maine. I liked her a lot, and figure she can support anyone she wants, from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders. I also know Steve Smith, the company's non-family-member CEO, a little bit - he used to be at Hannaford and Walmart, and I have a lot of respect for his talents - though his job should be to make and sell great products, grow the company's physical footprint and e-commerce business, and demonstrate leadership to the company's employees ... not defend a great company from over-zealous elected officials and activists. (He's totally up to the expanded challenge by the way...and maybe it is a good thing that for the first time in its history, LL Bean has a non-family member in the CEO office.)

And a sizable percentage of my wardrobe comes from LL Bean, and I don't see that changing anytime soon, regardless of what Trump says or doesn't say, or what points he or any other politician tries to score at someone else's expense.