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Urban Outfitters Execs Believe the Brand is Resonating with Shoppers Again, Despite Sales Slip

The latest in Urban Outfitters's comeback story.
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Scanning the homepage of Urban Outfitters's website, the retailer's product selection and imagery seems right on trend. A trio of models, including rising runway star Damaris Goddrie, wear sporty clothes in nude tones evocative of Kanye West's Yeezy collections; the men's section showcases a denim Calvin Klein hat; in beauty, Milk's new makeup collection, the recipient of much Instagram love from various coastal cool girls, is on display. The photographs are shot in pale, natural light, and the site's layout is equally pared down. 

It's not an original aesthetic, but in the context of Urban Outfitters's mission to get itself back on point with young shoppers, it's a step forward. Over the past few years, we've watched the brand's sales plummet and, after a concerted effort from its management, creep back into growth. On Tuesday afternoon, Urban Inc. execs said that they believe the brand is "back in sync" with its core customer, noting that social engagement is up. Still, they qualified, there's a lot of work to be done, including better controlling brand-eroding markdowns and editing down redundancies in the women's clothing assortment. All in all, Urban Outfitters saw its comparable retail sales decrease 3 percent during the fourth quarter of the year, which ended Jan. 31.

It was a muted quarter across all of Urban Inc.'s brands, though, with the typically successful Free People's sales increasing just 2 percent. Overall company sales were $1.01 billion, the same as last year. And as we've seen over the past month or so, the 2015 holiday season wasn't kind to many retailers, with warm temperatures tamping down shoppers' exuberance over winter clothing.

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