Advertising / Corporate Social Responsibility / Organizational Strategy / Product Development

If You Can’t Take the Heat, Stay Out of Urban Outfitters

urban outfitters

Lisa Hulker

Everyone knows the saying “if you can’t take the heat then stay out of the kitchen”; well if you can’t take the controversies, stay out of Urban Outfitters.  Urban Outfitters, a clothing corporation that is popular among millennials, was caught in the middle of a huge controversy. Just a few weeks ago, Urban Outfitters released another controversial clothing item that sparked various emotions of sadness and hatred in many Americans.  This particular vintage sweatshirt, a Kent State University sweatshirt, was splattered with blood stains and tiny holes selling for $129 which is around the price of other sweatshirts sold there.  In 1970, 4 unarmed students were killed and 9 others were injured by the National Guard during an anti-Vietnam war protest.  Although the millennial generation is too young to remember the events that occurred during the Kent State Massacre, the public was still outraged.  This resulted in Urban Outfitters taking the item off of their website after only one day.  This is not the first time that the store has sold questionable products.

Urban Outfitters has previously sold controversial clothing items such as shirts labeled with the words “I Vote for Vodka,” “Eat Less,” and “Depression.”  With their main target market being 18-24 year old shoppers, these shirts seem to promote underage drinking and anorexia as well as exploit mental diseases.  Unfortunately for them, customers that are offended by the store’s controversial products are doing Urban Outfitters a favor by bringing them publicity.  Another popular saying, “any publicity is good publicity,” holds true for Urban Outfitters.  People that are offended by these articles of clothing should just simply stop shopping at Urban Outfitters.

Over the past five years, the sales for Urban Outfitters consistently grew from $1.8 billion in 2009 to $2.7 billion in 2013. In addition, if you look closer at the graph below you can see that the 4th quarter of 2013 saw a large spike in sales increasing from $7.7 million in the previous quarter to over $9.0 million which was their biggest jump throughout the year.  This huge spike in sales came shortly after they released another one of their “controversial” articles of clothing.  Although these debatable products offended some of the public, the sales are undeniable.

2013 2012 2011 2010 2009
Net Sales 2,794,925 2,473,801 2,274,102 1,937,815 1,834,618
Gross Profit 1,031,531 860,536 936,620 786,145 713,478
Net Income 237,314 185,251 272,958 219,893 199,364

Tables are in Thousands

April 30, 2013 July 31, 2013 October 31, 2013 January 31, 2014
Net Sales $648,177 $758,524 $774,049 $905,858
Gross Profit 238,809 298,243 292,285 332,005
Net Income 47,058 76,363 70,257 88,682

Although Urban Outfitters has some distasteful products, should they really be punished by having to recall their products?  If people are really offended by these questionable products then they should stop giving Urban Outfitters their attention.  Unless customers stop shopping at Urban Outfitters, it’s possible that they will continue to sell such items because in the past their sales continued to grow from controversies.  Since the Kent State University sweatshirt was only released for a day before the store pulled it from their website, it seems to have been their most controversial product yet.  Not enough time has passed to see how it affects their overall sales.  However, if history repeats itself, they will benefit from this publicity stunt.


http://investor.urbn.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=115825&p=irol-reportsannual

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