“We embrace the complexity of our business rather than try to simplify it,” said Glen Senk, president of Anthropologie and executive vice president of its parent company, Urban Outfitters Inc. “We carry more than 10,000 stockkeeping units. We have a broad range of price points. We go from $4 for a bar of soap to $30,000 for an antique.”
A one-time Bloomingdale’s executive who joined Anthropologie in 1994 when it was a single store in Wayne, Pa., with sales under $2 million, Senk today helms a 60-unit, $350 million-plus chain targeting women 30 to 45 years old with an eclectic mix of apparel, linen, books and furniture.
“We tend to flip a lot of retail convention on its side,” he said. “We have an extremely eclectic product offering. We believe that racks of clothing stripped down to bestsellers are boring. We’ve all had the disappointment of seeing our most treasured buys hit the sales racks. But those quirky fringe items are most often what narrate the concept the best, that create the most excitement and interest.”
Senk attributed the company’s success to its unorthodox mix and a laser-like focus on its target customer. “I like to think of Anthropologie as an independent movie or a small-press novel that reaches us in a way that big-studio films rarely achieve,” he said. “Our growth, and the growth of Urban Outfitters Inc., has been largely organic. But it’s always been driven by one thing: to exceed customer expectations.”
The prevailing wisdom in retailing, he said, is to “create an assortment of good, better, best, across a matrix of traditional, transitional and contemporary product.” But that’s not the strategy at Anthropologie. “Rather than be all things to all people or mastering a category,” Senk explained, “we seek to master a specific customer. We choose to slice the pie differently. We offer a broad variety of categories, but we’re quite edited within each category. Every product we buy, every real estate decision we make, we do through the eyes of the customer.”
That customer is college or post-graduate educated and married or in a committed relationship; more than 50 percent of them have children, he said. “She’s well-traveled, well-read, she’s into cooking, gardening and wine, she has a natural curiosity about the world, she’s relatively fit, she gets our references whether it’s a small town in Europe, a book or a movie.”
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