Urban Outfitters Sticks with Youth Movement

Discussion
Feb 16, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


You don’t have to like the goods Urban Outfitters sells, says Richard Hayne, the company’s co-founder, chairman and president, only his customers do.


The apparel, accessories and housewares chain, which caters to young adult and teen shoppers, has been criticized for selling t-shirts with slogans such as “New Mexico, Cleaner Than Old Mexico” and “Everybody Loves a Jewish Girl” surrounded by dollar signs, while seeing profits rise by an average of 73 percent a year between 2001 and 2005.


Mr. Hayne told The Associated Press he is “very, very, very rarely” sorry about the choices of products his company sells and he defended his buyers’ product selections.


“Their job is not to know what I find offensive or what you find offensive,” he said. “Their job is know what the 21-year-old female finds enjoyable.”


The retailer, which operates 176 stores under the Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie and Free People banners is in the early part of its growth cycle, according to Margaret Whitfield, an analyst with Ryan Beck & Co.


“They probably will continue their strong growth rate by staying with the age group currently served,” she said.


Still, Mr Hayne is also looking to older consumers as a potential market for his company. According to the AP report, the retailer is considering the launch of two new concepts, including one that may be similar to Victoria’s Secret but targeted to women in the 35 and up age group.


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8 Comments on "Urban Outfitters Sticks with Youth Movement"


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Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
15 years 19 days ago
I was thinking about today’s youth shopping at Urban Outfitters, Abercombie, etc. and the clothes they are buying that puts adults and others in such an uproar. When I was in college, my friends and I produced our own clothing, signs, posters, etc. that said what these clothes say, albeit in a little different form. I guess what gets our attention is that the retailers here are spreading and promoting for financial gain, negative and sometimes inflammatory messages, rather than kids making their own judgements and statements as a form of self-expression. Another thought. I subscribe to the idea of personal branding, based on what you wear, say, the neighborhood you live in, the car you drive, etc. Today’s youth need to think about the message they give off to adults and their own peers when they wear clothes with off-color statements. In an era of opinion niches where everyone is encouraged to speak their mind, today’s youth have to think of the confrontational situations they might find themselves in when wearing these clothes.
Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 19 days ago

There isn’t enough space or readers’ attention to properly tell you how trend-right this company is.

Attention all retailers with trend-following customers: shop these stores and knock them off! They are dead on with their target market, and have been for at least 3 years. It may change; everyone drifts off the mark eventually. But for now….this is the place to look for trend interpretation.

Well done! Naughty Bunny disturbs my 44 year old girlfriend, but her 9 year old would kill for the stuff. Naughty Bunny is irritating. So are 9 year olds. Claire’s blows through the stuff. The same is true of UO’s edgier product.

And here’s a news flash: the more the “establishment” doesn’t like the product, the better UO’s target market does. Yes, I remember A&E. Not the same target market. At all.

Credit where it is due….these chains are red hot.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
15 years 19 days ago

I think this is a really interesting question as more and more retailers talk in the context of ‘customer centricity’. Many retailers lose their way when they have tapped into a specific customer base – “this generation’s teens” – and can’t decide if they are going to track with that segment as they grow up, or figure out how to stay in touch with how that segment changes as the next generation grows into it. Pier 1 is a great example of a company that practically used to be the “Urban Outfitter” of generations past that tried to grow up with their segment, and ended up losing their way. It’s not an easy choice, and whether you stick with the specific people or stick with the segment, there are a lot of challenges in making sure that you stay relevant as a brand. Good luck to UO!

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters each has less than 100 locations. That relative scarcity helps keep them special. It’s a good idea to incubate another concept instead of growing the other two brands to so many locations that they lose their edge. Free People is a wholesale brand used to supply the company’s nominal competitors (department stores, other specialty stores). Growing that brand will also reduce its distinctiveness. None of the company’s brands are low-end. The type of customer they have doesn’t want to see herself coming and going.

Vasanti Ballinger
Guest
Vasanti Ballinger
15 years 19 days ago

I live in a college town and it never ceases to amaze me what some people will wear. However, college is a time to learn who you are and to express yourself in a way that you might not have been able to while living with your parents.

With that said, if something worn gets too offensive, I’m sure other college-aged youth (who can relate to the offender better than we as ‘older’ people can) will stand up and say something. It’s people testing their barriers and expressing themselves in a way that we may not all understand, but at least they will get it out of their systems before joining us in the workforce. It’s a great market niche as long as it does not get to the point of degrading anyone or anything.

James Tenser
Guest
15 years 19 days ago

I’ve visited two Urban Outfitters locations here in Arizona. Both are located within walking distance of major university campuses. The merchandise and ambiance are clearly targeted toward the college-age female, and the visible clientele confirms this.

UO seems to brilliantly exploit a fundamental paradox of young adults – the pervasive and unanimous need to be different, but not from each other. It’s a life-stage retail concept that is rooted in understanding this need state. Every collegetown can support one, and I think it will prosper as long as it can continue to merchandise the “same difference.”

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 19 days ago

Huge potential for this chain in urban and suburban marketing areas–as long as they stick to satisfying their core customers (the teen and 20-something market) and stay on the cutting edge of fashion. Gee, isn’t that easy to say!

George Anderson
Guest
George Anderson
15 years 19 days ago

The relatively small size of the company gives it plenty of room for growth. Of course, trying to stay on the same wavelength as teenage girls is right up there with quantum physics for difficulty so their future is certainly not guaranteed.

All that said, I know of at least three teen girls who would willingly spend most of their parents take-home pay in Anthropologie if given the opportunity. ;o0

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