Urban Outfitters' bohemian brand has surpassed H&M, Zara, and Forever 21

Free People is the top destination for college girls. 

The bohemian-style brand owned by Urban Outfitters was named as the favourite clothing brand of young women surveyed by College Fashionista and Goldman Sachs.

It beat out popular favourites like Topshop, Forever 21, H&M, and Zara. 

Sales at Free People stores open at least a year grew 14% in the most recent quarter. By comparison, sales at Urban’s namesake brand grew 2%. 

Free People, which is known for bohemian attire, has consistently been successful.

“Amazing is the word that comes to mind when I hear the Free People story: thirteen consecutive quarters of double-digit comp sales growth. It’s a remarkable story and a tribute to the extraordinary performance of the Free People team,” CEO Richard Hayne said on a conference call with analysts.

While Urban Outfitters has been criticised for not knowing its target customer, Free People’s hippie aesthetic is consistent in its product line, social media accounts, and ad campaigns. 

Urban Outfitters markets to teen customers. Unfortunately, those customers are price-conscious and would rather shop at fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M, writes Miriam Gottfried at The Wall Street Journal.

In order to turn business around, Urban Outfitters will have to resonate with older customers who are in college and beyond. The brand plans to improve store displays, designs, and advertisements. 

Perhaps Urban Outfitters should take notes from Free People’s playbook. 

Mallory Schlossberg contributed to this story.

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