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​The great L.L. Bean Duck Boot shortage

L.L. Bean's "Bean Boot" -- also known as "the Duck Boot" -- is hotter than pumpkin spice lattes this fall.

Even though the weather is still unseasonably warm in many parts of the country, shoppers are snapping up pairs of the classic boots, leading to out-of-stock notices on some sizes and styles. When it comes to the sizes that are still in stock, L.L. Bean is advising customers to place their orders now because of "an extremely limited supply."

It's at least the second year that L.L. Bean has been struggling to keep up with demand for the classic boot, which debuted in 1912 when founder Leon Leonwood Bean created a half-rubber, half-leather boot to keep his feet dry when he went hunting. The shortage struck even after L.L. Bean hired an additional 100 boot makers and spent $1 million for a second molding injection machine this summer to pump out more rubber bottoms.

"We are doing all that we can to make the boots as quickly as possible without compromising quality and we are constantly looking for ways to do just that," emailed L.L. Bean spokesman Mac McKeever. "Making these boots takes time."

While outdoorsy types have always been fans of the boots, high-school and college students as well as fashion-conscious city folk are increasingly slipping their feet inside a pair of the rugged footwear, he added.

Authenticity and durability may add to the mystique, especially given that the boots are still hand-sewn in Maine.

"They're tougher than a tire and will last a long time," McKeever said.

Still, the scarcity factor could ironically be pushing up sales, making the boots seem rare and sought after. Some consumers who are on the fence about the boots might be convinced that they're the "it" item to own, given the demand from competing buyers.

The company expects to sell 500,000 pairs of boots this year, an increase of 12.5 percent from the 450,000 sold in 2014. When there was a shortage last year, some sellers started hawking the boots on eBay for twice the retail price, which ranges from about $99 per pair to as much as $299 for a dark-cranberry, shearling-lined over-the-calf women's version. The latter is already sold out, by the way.

Still, to some the mystique can be downright mystifying, with Quartz calling the boots "ungainly" and "ugly." One reason for the appeal? It's not looks, but the boots' durability and L.L. Bean's 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.

"We don't pursue what's in vogue -- it has this this wonderful way of finding us," McKeever said.

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