Last year, the financial news out of Urban Inc. took on a familiar refrain each quarter. Urban Outfitters was digging itself out of the sales hole it had fallen into, while Free People bounded ahead, fueled by the Coachella mania that gripped a nation of young women's sartorial preferences. Anthropologie just kind of skated by, its growth not as delightfully double-digit as Free People's, but still positive.
The first quarter of fiscal 2016 wrapped up on April 30, and with it, Urban Outfitters is officially growing at a faster clip than Anthropologie. Comparable sales — that is, those only for stores that have been around a full year — rose 5 percent at Urban to $296 million and just 1 percent at Anthropologie to $311 million. (Like a pint-sized goody two-shoes, Free People grew 17 percent during the period, though it still represents the smallest proportion of overall sales at $132 million.)
So what's going wrong? And right?
According to the executive team, Anthropologie messed up on dresses and accessories. As far as the frocks go, the silhouettes and fabrics weren't a hit, the price points were off and the brand didn't have enough casual options. So the customer shook her head and said, "Nah." A newer assortment will hit stores in June and early July, and with luck Anthropologie will get its dress game back on track.
That said, the brand did see one dress category take off: Wedding dresses. In fact, sales for its bridal line, Bhldn, tripled during the quarter. Encouraged by the growth, Anthropologie will be adding bridesmaid dresses to its range in the next year. Not-so-incidentally, Free People is now getting into the wedding game as well, having launched the website for a bridal collection called Ever After on Monday. The dresses in the line are typically lacy and bohemian, ranging from $500 to $4,000. (Is anyone willing to drop $4,000 on a wedding dress going to do so at Free People? We're curious to see.)
Urban Outfitters, meanwhile, is doing solid work reducing its markdowns and de-cluttering its stores. (A poorly merchandised, overwhelming store experience had been a stated concern in previous quarters.) At this point, execs say, only the men's categories are down. Sounds like progress.