More than 5,000 L.L. Bean employees will receive a bonus check based on the outdoor gear retailer’s sales performance last year.

Reporting revenues of $1.6 billion in 2018, the Freeport-based retailer eked out a 1 percent gain over 2017 revenues. Based on those results, the company’s directors approved a 5 percent annual pay bonus to about 5,400 year-round employees, and an additional 2 percent enhancement to their 401(k) contributions.

“Measured against corporate goals and expectations, we performed well in a very competitive industry and a very difficult retail economy,” said Steve Smith, L.L.Bean president and CEO, in a press release announcing the bonuses. “We are on a journey toward growing our top line and the improvement to our bottom line is a critical first step. Improved profitability allows us to invest in our business. Today we thank and appreciate the hard work and dedication of our employees, the loyalty of our customers and the quality of our products and services.”

Smith was unavailable for a interview Friday said company spokeswoman Carolyn Beem.

The announcement is the second bit of recent good news for employees, who also received holiday checks in December because of improving sales. The company had suspended its employee annual bonus last March because of flat revenues in 2017, the only time in 10 years it did not grant a bonus, Beem said.

Those disappointing revenues led to L.L. Bean trimming its workforce by 100 positions and revising its long-standing, lifetime-guarantee return policy to stem abuses. The company also experienced shipping problems in 2017 related to a software upgrade.

Two years ago, the company awarded 3 percent bonuses to about 6,000 eligible employees. L.L. Bean is the fifth-largest employer in Maine, and the second-biggest in Cumberland County, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

Improvements in core profitability enabled the company to invest nearly $45 million in employee benefits in 2018 beyond the holiday gift, including expanded paid time off, paid parental leave and eldercare support, the company said. As a result of upgrades to its warehouse technology, the company processed a record number of daily orders, had the highest on-time delivery and the lowest customer product backlog in decades, it said. L.L. Bean attracted a notable increase in new buyers last year and introduced lines of fleece outerwear, pullovers and jackets that were “instant customer favorites,” Beem said.

L.L. Bean does not expect any changes to its workforce this year, but plans to open one or two new stores and expand its presence in Canada. Last October the company signed an agreement with Toronto-based Jaytex Group to distribute its apparel in Canadian stores. L.L. Bean has 48 stores in 18 U.S. states and 28 stores in Japan, where it has a growing presence.

“The year-end bonus and the enhanced contribution to the 401(k) underscores the ownership’s commitment to sharing the company’s profits and financial success with those who create them, our employees,” said Shawn Gorman, L.L.Bean’s executive chairman of the board, and great-grandson of founder Leon Leonwood Bean. “Our employees are who we are. The board of directors and the family are pleased that their efforts and excellence make it possible to reward them with a year-end bonus.”

Peter McGuire can be reached at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PeteL_McGuire

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