James Bidwell to Head Anthropologie Europe

Bidwell to lead expansion of chain stores in Europe.

Anthropologie is venturing overseas.

Anthropologie plans to set up shop in Europe.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The retailer on Tuesday named James Bidwell to the newly created position of managing director, Anthropologie Europe. Bidwell since 2005 has been chief executive of Visit London, formerly the London Tourist Board. Prior to that, he was marketing director at Selfridges.

“James is a perfect fit with Anthropologie’s culture, which values creativity, initiative and a genuine love of the customer,” said Glen Senk, chief executive officer of Anthropologie parent Urban Outfitters Inc. “His significant experience in brand development and marketing combined with his global perspective will make him essential to Anthropologie’s successful expansion abroad.”

Anthropologie, the slightly more grown-up and sophisticated sister of Urban Outfitters, is venturing overseas a decade after Urban planted roots in Europe. Urban now operates 14 units in the U.K., Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden.

Senk said Anthropologie will benefit from the foundation Urban has laid.

“It’s likely that the first store will be in London,” Senk said. “It’s a pretty easy place to open a store. We certainly have talked about Asia and the Middle East, but that’s on the back burner for now. For the next three to five years our focus is going to be Europe.”

Anthropologie is expected to have between 20 and 40 stores in operation in five years, Senk said.

Moving into Europe is another growth vehicle for Anthropologie, whose store count will be limited to 250 and 300 units in North America, Senk said. There are now 116 stores in the U.S.

Urban Outfitters’ first-quarter earnings rose 44.9 percent and sales increased 25.4 percent to $394.3 million for the three months ended April 30. “People ask how the economy is affecting our plans for expansion,” Senk said. “I would say, not at all. If anything, it’s providing us even more opportunities because we’re a healthy, profitable business, and we’re very bankable. We’re a very attractive tenant.”

Anthropologie’s positioning in Europe will be very similar to its profile in the U.S., where the sweet spot is thirtysomething shoppers who lean more toward young contemporary than misses’. Anthropologie is a known quantity in Europe, Senk said. “The world is a much smaller place today than 10 years ago, when Urban first opened,” he said. “We started shipping internationally at the end of last year and we’re doing well. We have a lot of European traffic in our American stores. The English as a culture are a very curious people. They read a lot and want to know what’s new.”

Senk hopes to eventually cross-pollinate Anthropologie’s U.S. and European teams. “The word ‘anthropology’ means the study of people and cultures, so being international really plays into what Anthropologie is about,” he said.