Israel Welcomes First Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters is headquartered in Philadelphia at the Navy Yard. This Walnut Street location is one of more than 500 stores worldwide under the URBN brand. | Rachel Kurland

Middle Eastern hipsters now have a one-stop shop for all things bohemian-chic.

Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters has expanded to Israel, opening its first brick-and-mortar store in Ashdod, which is about 25 miles south of Tel Aviv.

The apparel retail chain agreed to a 10-year franchise deal with Fox-Wizel Ltd., according to the Israeli digital business daily Globes. Fox-Wizel sells other chain brands and is expected to also sell Free People and Anthropologie merchandise — which are all under the parent company URBN — in a virtual shopping mall called Terminal X in the coming months.

Fox-Wizel’s apparel acquisitions include products under the Fox, Fox Home, American Eagle, Aerie, Mango, Charles & Keith and The Children’s Place brands.

The Urban Outfitters store was originally set to open in Tel Aviv, but franchisers opted for Ashdod’s Big Fashion Mall.

Three more 600- to 1,100-square-meter Urban Outfitters are scheduled to open this year: Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem, Ir Yamim Mall in Netanya, and Dizengoff Center in Tel Aviv, which will become the brand’s main store in Israel.

The agreement costs an estimated 40 million NIS (about $11.3 million) in its first four years.

Elissa Bloom, executive director of the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, noted Urban Outfitters has a specific way of merchandising, and its millennial consumers reflect that, too.

“They really create that whole lifestyle experience [for] the urban customer in stores,” she said, and “it’s going to be very welcomed in Israel.”

Urban Outfitters is headquartered in Philadelphia at the Navy Yard. This Walnut Street location is one of more than 500 stores worldwide under the URBN brand. | Rachel Kurland

Urban Outfitters’ style emcompasses a wide range of prints and curated trendy looks, ranging from hipster street style to comfy casual to boho chic, and yet it all meshes together as one collective, cohesive brand — and that’s just the clothing.

Urban Outfitters also sells home decor, bedding, furniture, books, records, music tech, electronics, party games, beauty accessories — the list goes on.

“Israelis love comfort,” she added. “The aesthetic and the overall merchandising assortment is very much synergistic with Israelis and what their lifestyle is about.”

Bloom just hopes the franchise will carry some Israeli designers in the stores to highlight the locale.

“The assortments and the gifting and the way that they really position themselves from a pricing standpoint,” she continued, showcases the 24/7 lifestyle of the customer. “Israelis are very savvy, especially the millennials.”

Overall, Bloom said having a presence is Israel will resonate with the young people who live there.

“They must have a huge following and customer base online” to open in Israel, she stated. “It’s an exciting opportunity for Urban to be able to showcase and have the actual pieces that the customer can try on and get a better sense of what the brand is about.”

Founded in 1970 in a small space across the street from the University of Pennsylvania, Urban Outfitters and its sister brands operate chains in the United States, Canada and Europe, with more than 500 combined stores across the globe. The company totaled $3.5 billion in revenue last year.

Last week, however, URBN’s stock decreased 1.43 percent in pre-market trading after the retailer announced the departure of Urban Outfitters president and Anthropologie CEO David McCreight. McCreight will leave his position at Anthropologie April 27 and be replaced by Anthropologie group Presidents Hillary Super and Andrew Carnie.

But the dip should adjust quickly. Urban Outfitters’ shares soared 23 percent in 2017, and continued a relatively strong momentum into 2018, Investopedia reported. Net sales increased 8, 5 and 2 percent at Free People, Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters, respectively.

The URBN headquarters in Philadelphia did not respond to the Jewish Exponent’s interview request by time of publication.

Launching a new store in a new country contrasts shoppers’ attraction to online shopping. But Vered Nohi, executive director of the Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, said nothing compares to the experience of going to a store in person and picking out items by hand.

As such, she believes the chain is a fantastic move.

“Israelis have a high sense of fashion and they like to buy quality products, and definitely Urban has very diverse, beautiful product lines to share,” she said. “It will be a great opportunity to grow both economies,” which will create more jobs, more revenue and the like for Israel and Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has a rich history of high-quality textiles, Nohi added, and the local shift toward smart fabrics — textiles that include or embed digital components — parallels the direction of Israel’s fashion sector.

In addition, Nohi said Urban Outfitters has the chance to leverage with local Israeli high tech or fashion tech; “technologies for increasing the

marketing and profitability of fashion companies.”

“Because so much of marketing is done now online, there are various technologies to increase the interest of the buyer in products and imagine how the items will fit their home or their wardrobe, et cetera,” she explained. “There are many companies in Israel where that’s what they do.”

Israelis often travel far and wide, too, Nohi noted, so they’re exposed to more brands like those under the URBN umbrella. “They like to consume international brands.”

She said the brand will soar in Israel because Urban Outfitters offers an eclectic shopping experience in the way it promotes its products.

“The whole idea is that expanding to new markets could increase the revenue for the local company and yet also create jobs in both — in Israel and here — and that’s what’s wonderful.

“And people and their homes will look prettier,” she laughed.

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