Urban Outfitters

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Urban Outfitters, Inc.
Traded as
Industry Retail
Founded Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. (1970 (1970))

Headquarters Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Number of locations
401 (May 2012)[1]
Area served
  • United States
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Denmark
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Netherlands
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom
  • Spain
Key people
Richard Hayne (chairman)
  • Clothing
  • accessories
  • cosmetics
  • footwear
  • housewares
  • music
Revenue Increase US$ 3,086.608 million (2014)[2]
Increase US$ 426.831 million (2014)[2]
Increase US$ 282.36 million (2014)[2]
Total assets Increase US$ 2,221.214 million (2014)[2]
Total equity Increase US$ 1,694.17 million (2014)[2]
Number of employees
25,000 (2011)

Urban Outfitters, Inc. is an American multinational clothing corporation headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It operates in the United States, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and Spain. Its inventory primarily consists of women's and mens fashion apparel, footwear, beauty and accessories, activewear and gear, and housewares, which largely draw from bohemian, hipster, ironically humorous, kitschy, retro, and vintage styles. Their targeted group is young adults aged 18 to 28.[3] The company has additionally collaborated with designers and luxury brands on several occasions. Urban Outfitters manages five separate brands, including its namesake, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain, and BHLDN; together, the brands operate over 400 retail locations worldwide.[4] Today, it sells its product to approximately 1,400 specialty stores and select department stores.[5] Other than that, merchandise is sold directly to customers through websites, mobile applications, catalogs and customer contact centers.[6] As of January 31, 2015, total of 238 Urban Outfitters stores are operating, in which 179 are located in the United States, 16 are located in Canada and 43 are located in Europe.[6]


The company was founded by Richard Hayne, Scott Belair, and Gabriel Tham-Morrobel in 1970, and was renamed and incorporated in 1976. On March 15, 2001, the company reclassified shipping and handling revenue into net sales.[7] On January 23, 2014, Wendy Wurtzburger, who "was instrumental in developing Leifsdottir, a brand that Anthropologie sold in select units and wholesaled to Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom", left Urban Outfitters.[8] In April 2011, the company decided to sell Liefsdottir through its own company.[8]

Corporate identity[edit]

Urban Outfitters SoHo location in New York City

Urban Outfitters has been described as hipster, stylish, kitschy, irreverent, bohemian, and retro. It carries sometimes odd merchandise, for example, T-shirts emblazoned with the words "Jive Turkey" or "Atari".[9] They are known for catering to "hipster" culture and fashion, which incorporates influences from past decades. In house brands include Kimchi Blue, BDG (Bulldog), Pins & Needles, Sparkle & Fade, Silence + Noise, Coincidence & Chance, Deena & Ozzy, Ecote and Staring at Stars. According to their website, Urban Outfitters' "established ability to understand our customers and connect with them on an emotional level is the reason for our success." The site says that:

"The reason for this success is that our brands... are both compelling and distinct. Each brand chooses a particular customer segment, and once chosen, sets out to create sustainable points of distinction with that segment" and that "the emphasis is on creativity. Our goal is to offer a product assortment and an environment so compelling and distinctive that the customer feels an empathetic connection to the brand and is persuaded to buy."[10]

Urban Outfitters in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Urban Outfitters seeks to create "a differential shopping experience, which creates an emotional bond with the 18- to 30-year-old target customer we serve."[11] In 2011, it agreed to sell limited editions of Polaroid ONE600 instant cameras and Type 779 instant film in partnership with the Austrian entrepreneur Florian Kaps, who acquired the rights to manufacture 700 copies of the defunct product.[12] In January 2013, it hired the Abraham & Roetzel lobbying firm, led by former Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham, to advocate on its behalf in Washington, D.C., regarding retail industry policy.[13]

In 2007 Urban Outfitters received the National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for the Urban Outfitters Corporate Office Campus located on the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.[14] For the same campus, Urban Outfitters received the 2007 Global Award for Excellence from the Urban Land Institute.[15] In March 2008, to introduce its new Terrain brand, the company entered the Philadelphia Flower Show and won the Alfred M. Campbell Award, the Conservation Award, People’s Choice Award and Best in Show.[16]

In Q4 2015, the company announced plans to acquire Pizzeria Vetri, an award winning eatery. As the company is facing declining same store sales and foot traffic, the acquisitions illustrates the retailer’s shift in strategy. There are two Pizzeria Vetri locations in Philadelphia, with three more locations scheduled to open up over the next year.[17]


Product controversies[edit]

Urban Outfitters' products have been the subject of multiple controversies, particularly concerning religious, ethical, and ethnic issues.

  • In 2003, the company released a Monopoly parody called Ghettopoly. The game was criticized as racist by a local chapter of the NAACP[18] and black clergy, among others.[19] The creator of the game, David Chang, maintained the games are "a medium to bring together in laughter," adding, "If we can't laugh at ourselves... we'll continue to live in blame and bitterness."[19]
  • Also in 2003, a T-shirt released with the phrase "Everyone Loves a Jewish Girl" surrounded by dollar signs was condemned,[20] though the Anti-Defamation League welcomed the decision to discontinue the shirts, saying that it hoped "that this experience, combined with another recent controversy surrounding an Urban Outfitters product that reinforced stereotypes, has served to sensitize the company to the sensibilities of its customer base and all ethnic groups."[21] The ADL later expressed "outrage and disgust" at other incidents of insensitivity.[22]
  • The following year, in 2004, a set of refrigerator magnets based on Jesus Dress Up, a game created by artist Normal Bob Smith, drew additional critical response.[23][24] The company allegedly received feedback from an estimated 250,000 emails.[25] Urban Outfitters noted that the magnets, which had been their sixth most popular Christmas toy,[26] were not intended to offend, but rather to appeal to their customers' diversity. Urban Outfitters no longer markets the game or the refrigerator magnets.[27]
  • In 2006, the retailer was criticized[28] for offering sparkly handgun-shaped Christmas ornaments in its hometown of Philadelphia, a city that had seen over 1,700 shootings and over 300 gun-related murders for the year.[29] After the murder of officer Charles Cassidy, the company announced on November 15, 2007 that it would no longer sell the gun-shaped ornament.[30]
  • In 2007, complaints by Jewish groups over the company sales of keffiyehs (which had been marketed as "antiwar" scarves)[31] led Urban Outfitters to stop carrying that item.[32] Urban Outfitters issued a statement, "Due to the sensitive nature of this item, we will no longer offer it for sale. We apologize if we offended anyone, this was by no means our intention."[31]
  • In May 2008, after concern in the Jewish community, Urban Outfitters discontinued a T-shirt that featured a Palestinian child holding an AK-47 over the word "Victimized". According to a company representative, "[W]e do not buy items to provoke controversy or to intentionally offend. We have pulled this item in all of our locations and will no longer be selling it online either."[33]
  • In May 2010, The Village Voice published an article comparing various local Brooklyn artists merchandise to products sold later by Urban Outfitters, claiming they have been stealing people's work and designs.[34]
  • In June 2010, the company was criticized for having made a controversial T-shirt saying "Eat Less" over the stomach. Some people considered it as insensitive to people struggling with anorexia and other eating disorders.[35] The T-shirt was eventually pulled from the website but it was still sold in stores.[36]
  • In May 2011, Stephanie "Stevie" Koerner, a designer who owns an online store on Etsy, claimed that Urban Outfitters' "I Heart Destination" necklaces were stolen from her "United World Of Love", which both featured metal chain necklaces of various states with heart shaped holes punched in.[37] Blogger April Winchell investigated and discovered that the necklaces featured a common design which a number of other artists, both on and outside of Etsy, had been selling for at least a year prior to Koerner's first sale. Additionally, Winchell drew attention to a commenter's discovery of another instance in which Koerner had claimed credit for a design that was not originally hers.[38] Nevertheless, Urban Outfitters removed the product from their online store.[39]
  • In 2011, the Navajo Nation sent a cease-and-desist letter to Urban Outfitters, demanding that the company stop using the term "Navajo" for a line of products that include underwear and a liquor flask. The tribe holds at least 10 trademarks on their name and alleges the company of trademark violation and criticism of the product.[40] On October 19, 2011, Urban Outfitters removed the word "Navajo" from product names on its website.[41]
  • In 2012, many in the Irish-American community were upset and threatened to boycott Urban Outfitters over St. Patrick's Day T-shirts, which monolithically depicted Irish and Irish-Americans as drunkards.[42]
  • In 2012, several popular LGBT news blogs criticized the company's choice to feature a transphobic greeting card. The card has since been removed from the website's catalog. The company did not issue any public statement regarding the controversy.[43]
  • In April 2012, the Anti-Defamation League condemned Urban Outfitters for selling a tee-shirt with a six-pointed star design, which the ADL claims strongly resembled the star Jews in Nazi Germany were made to wear during the Holocaust.[44] The Danish brand, Wood Wood, that makes the tee shirt is also corporate partners with Adidas and Converse. The shirt no longer features the star.[45]
  • In September 2012, president of the Human Rights Foundation Thor Halvorssen published an open letter to Urban Outfitters urging the company to cease sales of clothing featuring Che Guevara. Halvorssen claims the clothing, often featuring the word "revolución" romanticizes "a brutal tyrant who suppressed individual freedom in Cuba and murdered those who challenged his worldview."[46][47] The merchandise has since been removed from stores.[48]
  • In September 2013, Urban Outfitters "Standard Cloth Patch" vest featured U.S. military patches. One of the patches was the scroll used by the 75th Infantry Battalion also known as the "Rangers." Rangers and other veterans objected as the Ranger Scroll is only awarded to those currently serving in the 75th Infantry Battalion.[49]
  • In February 2014, Urban Outfitters pulled a shirt that featured the word "Depression" in a variety of sizes across the entire shirt. Many people used social media to express their feelings that it was an insensitive design.[50]
  • In September 2014, Urban Outfitters was criticized by media and social media for the release of a vintage Kent State University sweatshirt. The sweatshirt had a red and white vintage wash finish, but also included what looked like bullet holes and blood splatter patterns invoking the Kent State shootings that took place on the campus on May 4, 1970. During the shootings four students were killed and nine students were injured by Ohio National Guardsmen.[51] Urban Outfitters issued a statement: "It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such … There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray."[52] Kent State issued the following statement: "May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State family. We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever. We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today. We invite the leaders of this company as well as anyone who invested in this item to tour our May 4 Visitors Center, which opened two years ago, to gain perspective on what happened 44 years ago and apply its meaning to the future.[53] Only one was sold before the shirt was pulled from stores and online, and was placed on eBay and sold for $2,500.
  • In February 2015, Urban Outfitters was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for selling a tapestry that featured gray and white stripes and a pink triangle, similar to clothing gay men were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. The ADL, a Jewish civil-rights group, released the following statement: "Whether intentional or not, this gray and white striped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture. We urge Urban Outfitters to immediately remove the product eerily reminiscent of clothing forced upon the victims of the Holocaust from their stores and online.”[54] Urban Outfitters did not respond to requests for comments. By the next day, the item was no longer on the company's website, likely been taken down and removed from sale.[55]

Labor practices[edit]

On November 27, 2009, the firm drew the attention of the Swedish press for denying collective bargaining rights to employees at their Stockholm store by making all 38 workers redundant and re-hiring them through employment agency Academic Work.[56][57] In response to the move, ombudsman Jimmy Ekman called for tougher laws to prevent other firms denying collective bargaining rights in this way.[58]


  1. ^ Urban Outfitters Announces Leifsdottir to be Sold Exclusively at Anthropologie
  2. ^ a b c d e "URBAN OUTFITTERS INC 2014 Annual Report Form (10-K)" (XBRL). United States Securities and Exchange Commission. April 1, 2014. 
  3. ^ https://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=URBN
  4. ^ http://www.fundinguniverse.com/company-histories/urban-outfitters-inc-history/
  5. ^ http://investor.urbn.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=115825&p=irol-irhome
  6. ^ a b http://biz.yahoo.com/e/150401/urbn10-k.html
  7. ^ "Urban Outfitters Reports Fourth Quarter and Annual Results". 
  8. ^ a b Edelson, Sharon (27 January 2014). "Wendy Wurtzburger Exits Anthropologie". WWD. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  9. ^ Philadelphia Weekly
  10. ^ Corporate website
  11. ^ Corporate website
  12. ^ Karen von Hahn, "Mama, don't take my Polaroid away", Globe and Mail, page L3, September 5, 2009
  13. ^ Center for Public Integrity
  14. ^ "NTHP Presents Honor Award To Urban Outfitters Corporate Office Campus". National Trust. 
  15. ^ "ULI Announces Five Winners of the 2007 Global Awards for Excellence Competition". The Urban Land Institute. 
  16. ^ "Urban Outfitters’ Terrain". Design Philadelphia, March 2008. 
  17. ^ "Pizza, Pants, Plants & Perfume? Mall Retailers Struggle To Find Winning Consumer Combo - CoStar Group". www.costar.com. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  18. ^ "Game's street theme upsets NAACP"St. Petersburg Times
  19. ^ a b "Black leaders outraged at 'Ghettopoly' game at Urban Outfitters". USAtoday, 10/9/2003. October 9, 2003. Retrieved May 27, 2010. 
  20. ^ Paynter, Susan. "Fashion statement sends a hurtful message", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 28, 2004
  21. ^ "ADL Welcomes Urban Outfitters' Decision to Discontinue Production of Offensive T-Shirt", Anti-Defamation League, January 9, 2004.
  22. ^ "Urban Outfitters At It Again", Anti-Defamation League, March 15, 2006.
  23. ^ Washington Times March 22, 2004 http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2004/mar/22/20040322-092410-2758r/
  24. ^ "‘Dress-Up Jesus’ Creator Reacts to NBC 10 Story", NBC 10 Philadelphia
  25. ^ "Urban Outfitters dumps 'Jesus Dress Up". AFA. 
  26. ^ "Magnet "Toy" nearly Destroys all Mankind". NormalBOBsmith.com. 
  27. ^ Site quotes Washington Times
  28. ^ Retailer under fire
  29. ^ The Philadelphia Inquirer
  30. ^ Urban Outfitters: Blog
  31. ^ a b Kim, Kibum. "Where Some See Fashion, Others See Politics", The New York Times, February 11, 2007.
  32. ^ "Iconic Palestinian headdress brings colourful clash to Beirut", Agence France-Presse, December 7, 2008.
  33. ^ Ramer, Alison Avigayil. "Fashion wars / U.S. store pulls 'pro-violence' Palestinian T-shirt", Haaretz, May 22, 2008.
  34. ^ "Are Brooklyn Fashion Designers Being Ripped Off By Urban Outfitters?", May 27, 2010.
  35. ^ Johnson, John (June 3, 2010). "'Eat Less' T-Shirt In Bad Taste". Newser. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  36. ^ Odell, Amy (June 4, 2010). "Urban Outfitters Stopped Selling Its ‘Eat Less’ Shirt Online". New York. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  37. ^ "Not Cool Urban Outfitters, Not Cool.", May 25, 2011.
  38. ^ "Urban Outrage"[dead link], Regretsy, May 27, 2011.
  39. ^ "Urban Outfitters Offers Jewelry Identical To Independent Designer's Line", Consumerist, May 26, 2011.
  40. ^ "Navajo calls out Urban Outfitters for its products", Associated Press, October 18, 2011.
  41. ^ "Urban Outfitters pulls 'Navajo' name from website", Associated Press, October 19, 2011.
  42. ^ Irish-Americans' fury over 'arrogant and disrespectful' novelty St Patrick's Day T-shirts at Urban Outfitters
  43. ^ Wong, Curtis (March 19, 2012). "LOOK: Urban Outfitters Greeting Card Causes Outrage". Huffington Post. 
  44. ^ "Anti-Defamation League slams Urban Outfitters over shirt featuring perceived Holocaust imagery". Fox News. April 23, 2012. 
  45. ^ http://www.urbanoutfitters.com/urban/catalog/productdetail.jsp?id=24268690
  46. ^ "An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters Regarding Their Che Guevara Merchandise". Human Rights Foundation. Retrieved April 14, 2013. 
  47. ^ Halvorssen, Thor. "An Open Letter to Urban Outfitters Regarding Their Che Guevara Merchandise". The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 15, 2013. 
  48. ^ Carrasquillo, Adrian. "Urban Outfitters removes Che Guevara merchandise after outrage". NBC Latino. Retrieved April 15, 2013. 
  49. ^ http://guardianofvalor.com/urban-outfitters-decides-ranger-scroll-fashion-accessory/
  50. ^ Stampler, Laura. "This Is The Urban Outfitters Shirt That Has People Going Apoplectic". TIME Business. Retrieved February 6, 2014. 
  51. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126423778
  52. ^ http://www.people.com/article/urban-outfitters-kent-state-sweatshirt
  53. ^ http://www.kent.edu/news/kent-state-statement-regarding-urban-outfitters%E2%80%99-sweatshirt
  54. ^ http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/02/10/urban-outfitters-sells-tapestry-eerily-reminiscent-of-holocaust-garb/
  55. ^ http://www.businessinsider.com/anti-defamation-league-calls-on-urban-outfitters-to-stop-selling-holocaust-garb-2015-2
  56. ^ "Sparkas efter krav på kollektivavtal". Aftonbladet, By Catarina Håkansson, November 27, 2009. 
  57. ^ "Sparkas efter krav på kollektivavtal". Dagenshandel.se, By Jesper Stärn, November 27, 2009. 
  58. ^ "Antingen skriver man på eller blir uppsagd". Svenska Dagbladet, By Negra Efendić, November 27, 2009. 

External links[edit]