The year was 1970. Dick Hayne was just 23 years old when he, college roommate Scott Belair, and Judy Wicks came up with the idea to open a retail store. Belair was in search of a topic for an entrepreneurial class he was taking at the time. The first store, originally called Free People, was located in a small space across the street from the University of Pennsylvania. Its mission was to provide second-hand clothing, furniture, jewelry and home décor for college-aged customers in a casual fun environment.
Since the first store opened in West Philadelphia we continually strive to connect with our customers through unique products and engaging store design. Instead of transforming buildings into something new, we preserve their original features, a trait that has become our signature look. We strip back paint to its first layer, expose brick walls, and use original pieces as displays and fixtures. Our approach goes beyond historical preservation – it’s about maintaining a layered history, but infusing a new, fresh atmosphere.
Meg Hayne created Urban Outfitters private label division, which supported product exclusive to Urban Outfitters. Demand was almost immediate and to meet this overwhelming need, she and Dick decided to create a wholesale line. It was well-received, so much so that Dick separated the businesses. For a while, the line took on many personalities: bulldog, Ecote, Cooperative, Anthropologie and then in 1984 a new life was breathed into the name Free People.
By the 1990’s, our original customer was entering a new life stage. She longed for a store to indulge her creative side. Dick, realizing this wasn't an isolated phenomenon, went on to build a lifestyle brand that catered to creative, educated and affluent 30-45 year-old women. Anthropologie was born and in 1992, the first standalone store opened in a refurbished automobile shop in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Anthropologie is a portal of discovery for our customer - offering her a shopping destination with a well-curated mix of clothing, accessories, gifts, and home décor that reflect her personal style and individual passions.
In 1993, URBN sold shares in an initial public offering for $18 a share. Today the company trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker URBN.
Urban Outfitters was the first brand of the URBN portfolio to cross the Atlantic in 1998, opening a store on Kensington High in London. Eleven years later, Anthropologie followed, opening a store on Regent Street, (also in London) that spans 11,000 square feet across three floors. Soon after, the brand opened another location nearby on Kings Road.
The millennium brought with it a new shopping experience, one that wasn't a physical location. In 1998, Anthropologie released its first catalog with circulation more than doubling before the end of the year. In August of that same year, Anthropologie.com was established. Site visits and online orders were well above initial expectations, which fueled investments in future E-commerce efforts. It wasn't long before our other brands opened a web store - Urban Outfitters in 2000 and Free People in 2004.
Opening in Paramus, New Jersey in 2002, the first Free People store was a small boutique that was a mix of natural and rugged. Its intimacy and uniqueness resulted in an unwavering bond with customers, and offered her the best product assortment and experience possible.
In May 2008, we acquired J. Franklin Styers Nurseries, a popular garden center in Glen Mills, PA, that was one of America’s most respected names in horticulture since 1890. Renamed “Terrain at Styers,” the new venture enhanced the typical notion of a garden center by combining a retail store, an event space, and a café. Today Terrain is inspired by the idea of merging house and garden to create an experience for all of the senses, as well as catering to our customer with a variety of products and services to captivate her imagination, enhance her life and bolster her community.
On Valentine’s Day 2011, we entered into the world of bridal with the launch of BHLDN, offering brides-to-be a carefully edited assortment of wedding gowns, bridal party dresses, accessories, gifts and décor that caters to the bride in search of unusually beautiful things. Starting out online only, BHLDN opened its first free-standing location in Houston, Texas, in August 2011. Since then, the brand has expanded, opening another brick-and-mortar location in Chicago and several shop-in-shops in Anthropologie locations. In addition, BHLDN now offers one-on-one styling services so that brides can create an event brimming with unique flair and personality.
In February 2016, URBN acquired The Vetri Family group of restaurants, including award-winning and Philly favorite, Pizzeria Vetri. Created and co-headed by acclaimed chef, Marc Vetri and his business partner, Jeff Benjamin, Vetri brings bold, contemporary sensibility to classic Italian cooking. The Vetri Family Group of restaurants include several Pizzeria Vetri locations, Amis, Osteria, Alla Spina, and Lo Spiedo.
July 2019, URBN launched Nuuly, a new way to experience clothing—a monthly rental subscription service with a robust offering of URBN’s own brands, third-party labels and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces for rent via a custom-built, digital platform. Nuuly seeks to further shifting consumer shopping behaviors by giving subscribers access to a wide assortment of current fashion at a substantially lower cost-per-wear than retail, solving the paradox of a millennial's quest for fashion newness alongside the desire for a more sustainable lifestyle.