WWD.com/globe-news/people/urban-outfitters-stephen-murray-exits-3583095/

Battling a recent dip in its business, Urban Outfitters Inc. has lost a high-profile brand president.

This story first appeared in the April 15, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company said late Thursday that Stephen Murray, global president of its namesake Urban Outfitters chain, has resigned. He plans to return to London to pursue an opportunity with a wholesale business “having an international focus.”

Chief executive officer Glen Senk will assume the role on an interim basis.

Murray joined Urban Outfitters a year ago, succeeding longtime retail executive Ted Marlow. A former president of Vans, Murray previously served as president of the VF Action Sports Coalition, which includes the Vans and Reef brands.

For the past several months, the retailer, which operates brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, BHLDN, Free People, Leifsdottir and Terrain, has experienced a few speed bumps, appearing to be somewhat out of sync with its consumer.

Last week, the Philadelphia-based company reported weaker-than-expected March sales and said that during the first quarter, its comparable retail sales have been “low-single-digit negative.” It didn’t comment directly on the performance of its two largest nameplates, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie, both of which surpassed $1 billion in sales last year, but analysts have focused on a lack of excitement at Urban.

Analysts predicted a low-single-digit increase in March comps.

Settling up what will likely translate to soft first-quarter sales, the company blamed unruly weather conditions, a higher level of markdowns, fashion missteps and challenging comparisons versus last year.

Analysts focused on Urban’s acknowledgment that it was out of step with the fashion cycle and looked to the second half for improvement.

In March, the retailer reported weaker-than-anticipated fourth-quarter income, which fell 3.1 percent to $75.2 million, or 45 cents a diluted share. Net sales rose 13.6 percent to $668.4 million, as quarterly same-store sales, not including direct-to-consumer channels, fell 2 percent.

Word of Murray’s exit arrived after the close of the markets Thursday. Urban’s shares closed at $31.31, down 38 cents or 1.2 percent, and were down more than 2 percent in after-hours trading.

The company’s stock closed at $37.99 on March 7, just before it reported its disappointing fourth-quarter results, and fell 16.7 percent the next day, to $31.66. Since then, it has traded as low as $29.47, on March 29, but no higher than $32.25, on March 14.