FREEPORT, Maine (AP) — L.L. Bean is expanding direct-to-customer catalog and in-store sales with an agreement to sell products in Nordstrom, Staples and sporting goods chain SCHEELS.

The company’s first wholesale agreements in the U.S. represent a push to get L.L. Bean products in front of more consumers.

The first phase started with L.L. Bean backpacks and water bottles that went on sale in more than 1,000 Staples stores two weeks ago. Staples is a leading chain for back-to-school shopping.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, said it's smart for retailers to form partnerships in a difficult retail environment.

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