(SACRAMENTO BEE) — Back in the days before retailers like Gap, J. Crew or American Outfitters, there were guys like L.L. Bean, Eddie Bauer, David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch.

In Freeport, Maine, L.L. Bean found success without consumer research, focus groups or fashionistas to tell him what to sell. He sold only products he personally used and tested. He backed them with a money-back satisfaction guarantee. And his larger-than-life personality was projected in his catalogs, where he came across as someone customers could trust.

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