Urban Outfitters Tries to Find the Right Fit Overseas

By Sarah Yang

Urban Outfitters is looking to expand more in Europe this year

American fashionistas enjoy the ability to purchase the latest trends from foreign countries without having to spend thousands on airfare. They flock to imported clothing chains like Zara, originally from Spain, or Topshop, a UK retailer that recently opened up its first U.S. store in Manhattan.

But one question remains, are European clotheshorses jumping at the chance to buy American-made clothes?

According to a recent Business Week article, “Urban Outfitters’ Grow-Slow Strategy,” U.S. retailers have had a tough time getting a start in Europe. Gap and Wal-Mart are two chains that have seen numbers dwindling overseas.

Fashion retailer Urban Outfitters is looking to make its mark in Europe with the mantra that slow and steady wins the race. The article states that the company will open its second London Anthropologie store in March and five more Urban Outfitters stores throughout Europe. The company even created a London-based design and manufacturing department to account for Europeans’ differing tastes from their American counterparts.

It seems like a good idea for Urban Outfitters to appeal to the tastes of its European customers, but if the company relies too much on tailoring to that demographic, it may get lost within the competition of European-based retailers. Soon the clothes could resemble those from Zara or Topshop. What’s the point of shopping at a US-based chain if the customer ends up buying something that is very European?

As an American abroad last semester, I wasn’t jumping at the chance to go to the opening of the first Anthropologie in London. In fact, the thought of buying something that I could get in the US was unappealing, especially since it meant paying in the pound with its frightening conversion rate.

Every opportunity to visit the London shopping mecca known as Topshop was heaven for me. Rubbing elbows with London fashionistas while scouring the racks for the perfect flowy dress or sequined top was part of my culture immersion. I’m sure Europeans shopping in America would feel the same way and would be sorely disappointed to see something very European at a store like American Apparel.

The bottom line is, people know what they’re getting into when they enter a store. They know what kind of styles they’re going to see based on the brand. Retailers should stay true to their native roots and use that to help them stand out in foreign markets, instead of trying to imitate the same trends.

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