Marlow led Urban as president for nine years before stepping down in May 2010. He was succeeded by Stephen Murray, who resigned in April 2011 after just a year.
“When I left, there were some potential start-ups under the Urban umbrella that we’ll revisit,” Marlow said. The Philadelphia-based company has a history of incubating and developing businesses, albeit with uneven results. Leifsdottir closed its wholesale business in April and is now sold only at Anthropologie. Four-year-old Terrain operates a single store with a second unit under way. BHLDN, a bridal concept launched in February 2011, is unveiling its second store, a flagship in Chicago.
“Free People is a very healthy business that has grown in a conservative fashion relative to its potential,” Marlow said. “It can be a larger-scale business.”
Marlow said there’s also the possibility of launching new businesses online.
He intends to increase the European store count to 50 to 75 units from the 20 that exist today. He wants to enter markets in Asia “sooner rather than later” and took a tour of the Far East with Glen Senk, who resigned as Urban Outfitters Inc.’s ceo on Jan. 11 to join David Yurman.
Urban shares on Friday rose $1.24 to close at $27.68, a 4.7 percent increase on Nasdaq. “This is a positive for the company,” said Richard Jaffe, a retail analyst at Stifel Nicolaus. “Marlow is energized and highly capable of leading this business again.”
Marlow has his work cut out for him. Urban Outfitters Inc.’s net income has declined for the last four quarters and the company had trouble setting the right tone in fashion.
Marlow was serving on the board of Indigo in Canada when Senk called and invited him to dinner on Jan. 2. “We were shooting the breeze, and he asked if I had any interest in coming back,” Marlow said. “I was taken by surprise when his departure was announced. Glen didn’t give me any overtures to that.”
During his first Urban tenure, Marlow commuted to Philadelphia from his home in New Canaan, Conn. Now that his daughters have moved out of the house, he said his wife has agreed to move.
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