Urban Outfitters Hopes To 'Regain Its Fashion Footing'

And thank goodness for Free People.
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Eliza Brooke
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And thank goodness for Free People.
This is not what most Urban Outfitters stores looked like this quarter. Photo: Getty

This is not what most Urban Outfitters stores looked like this quarter. Photo: Getty

Urban Outfitters, Inc. delivered record sales in its first quarter of 2014, the company's CEO Richard Hayne said in an earnings call Monday afternoon. "Record" here was entirely contingent on Anthropologie and Free People buoying sales numbers up, though. The Urban Outfitters brand saw comparable retail sales sink 12 percent in the quarter, a performance that Hayne called "disappointing."

Hayne admitted that Urban Outfitters, which ended the quarter with excess inventory, hasn't quite stayed on point with changes in fashion trends. Fashion is not static, he noted (true), and the success of a brand depends on the accuracy with which it can reflect changes in trends (also true). To that end, Urban is working "diligently" on improving its product assortment and becoming less one-note in an effort to appeal to its core customer base again.

"Clearly there is still much work to be done for Urban to regain its fashion footing," Hayne said.

On the upswing, Free People's boho aesthetic seems to be right in line with what shoppers are looking for (i.e. festival wear). Comparable sales were up 25 percent for the brand, while Anthropologie also grew 8 percent; overall, the company's net sales were up 6 percent. 

That said, Urban Outfitters isn't giving up without a fight to stay relevant. After opening that new (actually pretty cool) mega-store in Williamsburg, it will be opening another multi-category, "experiential" location in Herald Square this June. The Williamsburg location has been pretty successful in catering to the hip local crowd — now Urban just has to recreate that sense of relevance more broadly.