The namesake retailer of Urban Outfitters Inc. is gearing up for the launch of its first private label beauty brand, Ohii, with a weekend pop-up at 213 Bowery in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. The pop-up is open to the public on Sept. 8 and 9 and will feature a Bluestone Lane coffee bar, photo booths and giveaways from Chillhouse.
This isn’t Urban’s first foray into beauty. The chain retailer, which caters to an edgy-leaning Millennial and Gen Z demographic, has been stocking a wide selection of niche beauty products on its web site and in its brick-and-mortar stores since at least 2015. Urban’s beauty assortment spans all categories, from skin care and makeup to hair, fragrance, nails, wellness, and bath and body, and specializes in harder-to-find labels, cult products and Instagram phenomena.
Urban-owned retailers Free People and Anthropologie have also invested heavily in their own beauty and wellness sections in the past few years. Anthropologie introduced its own private label makeup line, Albeit, in 2017. Experts and analysts told WWD last year that apparel retailers such as Madewell and Anthropologie were increasingly betting on beauty as a means of driving foot traffic into stores and authenticating their brand positioning during a slow time in the apparel cycle.
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Now, apparel sales have picked up and beauty seems to be here to stay at Urban Outfitters. News of Ohii’s line broke Aug. 21 on the Philadelphia-based company’s second-quarter earnings call, on which it reported record sales for the three months ending July 31.
Consisting of 13 stockkeeping units ranging from deodorant to skin care, lipstick, highlighters and hairstyling products, Ohii is designed to “fill in the blanks” on a beauty routine with multitasking, travel-friendly products meant to impart a “you-but-better” look.
“We believed there were holes that we could fill with our own brand,” said Gabby Conforti, chief merchandising officer for Urban Outfitters. “We’re not a typical line — not ‘makeup-y’ and we don’t cover up. We felt there was nothing on the market that diverse to all different people and that was about enhancing what you’ve already got.”
Conforti said the team working on Ohii looked across categories in beauty to find white space for product ideas, such as the Ohii Pure Stick, an aluminum-free deodorant that comes in two scents, rose and citrus tea.
Other products include the Daydream Hand Cream, 2-in-1 Clay Cream Cleanser, Lip Jelly, Magic Hair Wand, Glass Powder, Wake Up Pen, Soft Glow Highlighter, Big Reveal Mask, True Matte Lip, Gummy Gloss, Mini Mascara and Shadow Palettes. The collection’s prices range from $8 to $24. The products are cruelty-free and paraben-free.
Conforti said the line is meant to be a tight edit, but will expand based on customer feedback. Ohii was incubated over the course of two years, said Conforti, and some products didn’t make the cut because they didn’t “fit the brand DNA.” Going forward, Ohii will introduce new products based on customer feedback. She did say the line is meant to be permanent, for now, at Urban. “It’s something that will be part of Urban for the forseeable future,” Conforti said. “It’s about our customer. We don’t try to force one thing or the other, it’s her or him telling us what they need in their life, and we’re always learning from them and responding.”
Ohii will rollout to all Urban Outfitters stores and e-commerce site on Sept. 10. The launch is happening at a time when all the retailers under the Urban Outfitters Inc. umbrella are becoming increasingly lifestyle-focused. On company’s second-quarter earnings call, executives boasted about Anthropologie’s new Devon Yard lifestyle center, a six-acre complex off the Main Line in Philadelphia, containing a large-format Anthropologie store, BHLDN boutique, Terrain garden store, cafés and an event space — there have already been several weddings booked on the property.
Beauty is just another part of the lifestyle concept.
“Over the years, [Urban Outfitters Inc.] has been looking to expand and shift to ensure they’re giving the customer everything they want,” said Nomura analyst Simeon Siegel. “Despite all the back-and-forth, ‘death of the mall’ rhetoric, the reality is we are still in an environment where the customer appears to be in charge, and to appeal to a broader breadth of consumer desires is a way to get higher revenues.”